Kristina Keneally tells us the NSW Governor, Marie Bashir, had prorogued the parliament, effective immediately.
The ever confident Kristina seems to feel that this is a clever and acceptable device for the political purposes she desires at the moment. I suspect that she may be wrong, and that this will be seen to be shallow, insecure, non-transparent and further alienate the NSW electorate in general.
There is an election on the 26th of March, and at some stage parliament will need to be prorogued. Typically with an election looming, this allows members to return to their constituencies and focus on the campaign for re-election.
This is different from the normal rising of the house – such as for the Christmas recess. Whilst the business of legislation is (hopefully) transacted on the floor of the house, when the house is not sitting, there are lots of other things going on including committees that meet to report back to the house when it is sitting. Committees would not normally be expected to meet when a parliament was prorogued because the house is not there to return the report to, and the members would have returned to their electorates.
So why has the Keneally Government taken this move.
They believe that the Sale of the State’s Electricity Grid to Hong Kong Interests for 5.3 billion dollars will be at risk of not going ahead if the committee of the house meets to discuss and collect information about the sale of the deal, including receiving evidence from the directors who have resigned from the energy authorities over the high handed approach of the Keneally Government and a belief that the deal is not in the interests of the people of NSW.
Why did the Governor Act on the Advice?
Marie Bashir is the Governor of NSW and in the Westminster system of Government which we have, she acts on the advice of the Premier, however she is not (or should not be) a blind rubber stamp. A key role of the Governor is to review legislation passed by the parliament and give assent to the legislation. In a Westminster System the Governor has the right to decline where the constitution is breached, where natural justice is denied, and where the interests of the people are not being served. The prorogation is in a sense a procedural matter and possibly did not warrant much thought, given that the Governor’s Office is largely a-political, perhaps a little more thought would have stopped the office being used for a political purpose.
How Long is Usual?
A study of the NSW Parliamentary website suggests that Parliament is dissolved usually a week to a month before the poll. In the modern idiom that seems to work as it leaves the State without a Parliament for a short space of time.
Is this a Problem?
I think it is, because now we do not have a parliament in NSW which can deal with issues that may arise in the next three months. She could ask the Governor to call a new assembly and do all that if she was desperate, but the slightly feisty Labor Premier is unlikely to do that.
The Auditor General will be looking at the deal. That should be enough for us.
Well the Auditor General will look at the financial aspects of the transaction, not the social and political aspects. The Auditor General will look at the transaction after the event (that is what auditors do) and will report to parliament (presumably now the next parliament).
Not good enough! The people of NSW deserve better! I am not a fan of selling infrastructure. I am not a fan of anything that compromises energy independence. It sounds like the bad old days of the backroom deals. I thought Kristina was bringing us from the darkness of Sussex Street to the light of a new day. I am disappointed on so many scores. I believe this sort of facile dealing with the people of NSW will bring Labour closer to absolute annihilation at the next elect. The trick will be to see if the Liberal Party can do something with this. I suspect not. I am waiting this out a little more and will be revising my seats projection for NSW, but I think this kind of treatment could easily cost the ALP another 6 seats.