Day 2 session 3(b)

Friday 24 February 2017

(scribe/author: Pam Smith)

Session 3:  Broader Governance Reforms #1

Panel:  Ken Coghill, Ian Fraser, Duncan McConnell, Graham Nicholson, Ken Parish

Ken Coghill

  • The nature of democracy. What happens between elections?
  • Representative democracy is under challenge – widespread concern that voters not being heard
  • Voicing their powerlessness – obvious response is empowerment. There are examples of this in Australia and worldwide.
  • Melbourne – 5-10 year strategy – formed a citizens Jury to advise council on how it should be developing. Advice has been adopted.
  • Potential to use new or existing forms of democracy
  • Open Government partnerships – Improvements over a 2 year period – assessed by independent entity. Commitments entered into by joint civil society and government. Access to new technology for accountability
  • Belief that MP’s should put public interest above own or private interests – parliament first then the party.
  • Courts increasingly being able to enforce proper government
  • Extending public trust principle – making enforceable
  • NY does have a code of conduct – breeches however just in the hands of privileges committee. Is that enough?

Ian Fraser

  • We’re in the ditch with every western democracy
  • We’ve been operating on a bad theory
  • Our ideal may be wrong
  • Reason is good – emotion is bad? Take facts, reason and good faith and you will get agreement – WRONG
  • What happens when people don’t agree? We tend to see people who don’t agree as illegitimate ( basket of deplorables.).
  • We are more concerned with harvesting votes more thn anything else
  • We won’t all agree – need to understand each others values – then persuade!

Duncan McConnell

  • Should the NT have a Charter of Rights?
  • Concept of Human Rights – Human Rights Commission has a variety of functions.
  • State governments are entering into this area with their own charters
  • State and territories implemented some form of human rights such as anti-discrimination
  • Victorian model – more expanded range of rights – a focus on the right rather than the remedy. Model is across all aspects of government.
  • There is no current right to challenge decision of public au=thority except by calling up another right. Victorian courts interpret rights in accordance with the law. Human Rights Commission can intervene.
  • ISSUES –
  1. Some rights defined in very vague terms. Lack of guidance can create problems.
  2. Any authority can use rights if they carry out a public function ( what is a public function?) Need to tighten the definition.
  • Kormilda College example in the NT – this blurred the lines of a public function
  • Northern Land Council would be a public function
  • Charter of Rights and the protection it can give. Another NT issue is cost of implementation and operation – impact to government and sysytems needs to be carefully considered. Can implement because of need without necessarily having a charter.

Graham Nicholson

  • Inefficiency of being governed by the commonwealth. Success in establishing self-government and ther validity of self-government.
  • Big problem – section 22 of the constitution – Commonwealth can override NT legislation.
  • Statehood is the only thing to change this. Legislation only goes so far
  • Good government depends on the commitment of the representatives we elect.
  • Public trust is important. We need to hold elected reps accountable through the courts.
  • Westminster system better than presidential system
  • Ministerial accountability – parliament comes first. Need to have a wider respect for national interests – not just individual interests of their electorates.

Ken Parish

  • All people have a belief about government and how it should operate. There need to be checks and balances with democracy. Power can corrupt. We won’t all agree and never will
  • Democratic ‘agonism’ – major purpose of deliberation is to understand each other. Then we can more easily compromise.
  • The importance of citizen participation. Maybe we should have a citizen jury before any major assess is sold. They can be selected by random ballot.
  • Our code of conduct doesn’t have enough teeth. The NSW one has more teeth.

Comments and questions

Question – Why do we not have a cost benefit analysis for major projects? Eg the splitting of Power and Water

Question – At what point will artificial; intelligence take over decision making?


  • There are no such things as value neutral facts. Maybe we could have a model where we bring in the experts when we need them.
  • You are elected to govern. You get advice and consult – you don’t make decisions on a whim! You cant constantly take everything to the public. You can bury yourself in democracy.

Question – Could a Charter of Rights work for indigenous people before we get statehood?

Question – Could we devise a system where if the government got so out of touch then community could throw them out? Response Better to involve community more in policy issues between elections