As we observed in Crikey a long time ago, Harry Evans, the Clerk of the Senate, has a white beard – but the resemblance to God ends there. That doesn’t stop him from handing down holy writ from time to time – and the editors of both The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald have reproduced the contents of his latest stone tablets today.

“We no longer have parliamentary government in any meaningful sense of the term,” is his message in the SMH. “The government could now change the procedures of the Senate to dismantle accountability measures,” he warns in TheOz.

Evans, in other words, is doing his job and sticking up for his boss – the Senate. Evans speaks from a unique position of power, but one that’s about to be substantially diminished. That’s why he is defending it, and that’s the issue at the crux of his comments. Power.

The Australian Constitution vests executive power in the sovereign, exercised by her representative, the governor general, with the support of the Executive Council. The Council, strictly speaking, is a body chosen and summonsed by the GG which advises him. When it meets, however, it consists of His Excellency and a couple of ministers. It is a purely formal body that exists only to give legal effect to Cabinet decisions.

In effect the prime minister and the Cabinet have long heeded the executive, including the public service. The PM and cabinet represents the party that dominates the legislature and therefore the formation of policy and law.