Harry
Evans, the Clerk of the Senate, was correct on the fundamental fact when he
addressed the National Press Club yesterday. “All governments avoid
accountability,” he said.

So why did
he then do the Chicken Little act? “The sky has partly fallen in,” he said – but then went on to claim “It’s not only a chance that there will be some
great malfeasance in the future, it’s a certainty.” The sky is falling – and
partly fallen in, in other words.

He talked
about how Senate scrutiny had been eroded since the Howard Government assumed
its majority in July. He’s right – but he also needs to acknowledge that the
Government was re-elected with a majority in both Houses. The people gave them
the power. And that power isn’t always guaranteed. Even when Barnaby Joyce
isn’t in Antarctica.

We don’t
have an elective dictatorship. We have an elected democracy. Imperfect, like
all democracies, but a democracy nonetheless. There’s been no attempt to get
an Enabling Act through the Senate, and it isn’t likely.

Instead,
what will happen is that Australians will vote for the parties they want come
the next election, and the make-up of both Houses will change. That will create
a different dynamic – and a different level of accountability. Maybe not the
perfect level, but a different level none the less.

Evans maybe
should get out of his cubby-hole behind the President of the Senate’s seat
more. He should look at broader horizons. The sky hasn’t partly fallen in. Nor
is it falling. It’s clouded over, but watch it long enough and you see all
kinds of weather come – and go.

Unless he
acknowledges this, he is trivialising his own case – and being a real Chicken
Little.

Peter Fray

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