Pssst. Want a Melbourne Cup tip? The
bookies, sadly, are betting “no quote” on the prospects of John Howard
getting his terror legislation through Parliament on Cup Day.

The
PM says he’s got control of both Houses “on a good day.” He must have
thought Cup Day was a great day. No wonder Kevin Andrews smirked when
he denied to Fran Kelly on ABC Radio on National yesterday that his IR
legislation would be introduced on Cup Day. He must have known the PM
had other plans.

This morning, one of Howard’s chief
defenders, Gerard Henderson, took to the airwaves to stand behind his
former boss. He gave a feisty performance taking on Jon Faine on
Melbourne’s ABC local radio. “It’s a parliamentary sitting day,” he
declared. “It’s not as if these laws are being hidden. They’re getting
huge publicity.”

Henderson also had a sledge for Faine and his
media mates: “I’d put it to you, having observed at your work over the
years, that you would be against these laws if they were put before
Parliament the day after Cup Day.”

Henderson: I’d suggest at least 90% of journalists are
against the laws. You see a paper like The Age campaigning against the
legislation, whether they’re introduced on Cup Day or the day before
doesn’t make much difference.

Faine: But isn’t it important to scrutinise important legislation?

Henderson:
Most people aren’t interested in what happens in the passage of
legislation in any event. The public gallery in Parliament is rarely
full.

The Henderson attitude to Parliament is
consistent with the vigorous attempts by the Howard Government – and
the Keating Government before it – to increase the power of the
executive at the expense of the Parliament.

Consistently, Howard
has made significant announcements outside Parliament and tried to
minimise the scrutiny of legislation in parliamentary committees. His
refusal to give details of the terror legislation is just the latest
example of a PM who wants to minimise scrutiny of his methods. It’s an
odds-on bet that while he thinks he can get away with it, he will
continue to downplay the role of Parliament.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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