from Sunshine Coast Daily
Boris Johnson’s House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has no time for those who believe the coronavirus pandemic is a reason for sidelining parliament.
“Parliament’s role of scrutinising government, authorising spending and making laws must be fulfilled,” he said recently.
The only question for Rees-Mogg is how parliament can sit in the current circumstances. To that end, he is now “considering every technological solution available”.
PM Scott Morrison sees the role of the Australian parliament very differently. He’s dismissed the need for regular parliamentary sittings during the current coronavirus crisis on the basis that MPs “have got a bigger job to do out
there in their communities than they would have [in Canberra]”.
His Attorney-General, Christian Porter, has gone further, declaring “we’ve got better things to do” than “set down a regular sitting schedule”.
But parliamentarians serve their communities by representing them in parliament; there is no bigger job. It is through the parliament that MPs can ensure that the needs and interests of their communities are being addressed by the Government.
Fundamentally, that is the job they are elected to do.
When the parliament sat on 23 March, Mr Morrison shut it down for five months. He was forced to reconvene parliament again after reversing his position on wage subsidies but if he has his way, we won’t sit again until August.
That is not how parliamentary democracies work. Parliament is more than a group of MPs who are brought together whenever the government of the day needs approval for its latest legislation, however worthy that legislation may be.
It is not the Parliament’s job to serve the interests of the Australian Government. Its job is to serve the interests of the Australian people. That vital function must not be placed into hibernation during a time of crisis.
Disturbingly, Mr Morrison does not appear to think that his decision to shutdown the parliament is particularly significant.
But it is a momentous and unprecedented decision. Our federal Parliament continued to sit during World War I, the 1919 Spanish flu, and World War II. The mother of our parliament, the British House of Commons, even found ways to sit during the Blitz.
And as research produced by the Parliamentary Library has confirmed, Mr Morrison’s decision to shut down our parliament is not a decision that is being replicated in similar democracies such as the UK, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
Over the next five months, the Morrison Government will make decisions that will have extraordinary repercussions for millions of Australians and for the social and economic fabric of Australia for at least a generation.
The parliament passed extraordinary powers to respond to the current public health crisis. It is absurd and dangerous to suggest that the parliament now has no role in ensuring that these emergency powers are being exercised in the best interests of their constituents and of our nation.
Of course the national parliament may need to alter the way it sits to protect the health of its members and the general public. There are many ways this can be done, such as by having reduced numbers of MPs attending in person and through the use of technology.
The sheer scale the current crisis should also prompt us to consider the adoption of additional accountability mechanisms.
The New Zealand parliament, for example, has tasked a special cross-party parliamentary committee with scrutinising the actions of the Government during the current crisis. The committee is chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, sits remotely and its proceedings are live-streamed to the public.
A number of prominent Australian judges have called for a similar model to be adopted here and this is certainly worthy of debate – in the parliament.
When parliament does reconvene to consider the Government’s proposal on wage subsidies, Mr Morrison should not try to shut it down again after he gets what he needs.
Instead, the Prime Minister must allow the parliament to continue to perform its vital democratic functions during the current crisis.
Birmingham UK is alive with Muslims. This is indicative of the downfall of the UK. Islam now controls much of the country. Will we allow Bill Shorten to do this to our country?
If he gets control he already promised to open up the borders. Will you vote for the ALP/Greens?
The United Kingdom long been the fascist nation. Australia is not too far behind, having its strings pulled by MI6 and the CIA.
April 18, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – British citizens are now watched by Big Brother more closely than any other people in the world. All activity by British people on the web or on the phone is now monitored and stored. The British government employs more secret police – GCHQ, MI5, MI6 and SO15 – per head of population than Russia. Let me repeat that. The British have more secret police per head of population than Russia. British people are watched on closed circuit television more often than any other people in the world. Under the Prevent programme, “radicals” like me can only speak in universities under monitoring so intense and conditions so onerous that organisers give up, as I can personally witness.
The Prevent strategy provides for informants in every governmental institution who report any expressions of dissent. The UK has effective levels of surveillance – and a far higher volume of intelligence reports on their own citizens – than were ever achieved by the Stasi in Eastern Germany.
But of course, it is all “essential” to protect the citizens from the “threat” of Islamic terrorism, which is a fundamental threat to our existence, right?
So how big a threat is Islamic terrorism?
Since 2000, 57 people have been killed in the UK by Islamic terrorism.
Since 2000, 74 people have been killed in the UK by cattle.
So cows are actually a more potent threat to our personal society that terrorism.
Or more seriously – since 2000, 15,612 people have been murdered in the UK. Of whom only 57 were murdered by terrorists. You have in fact almost a 300 times greater chance of being murdered by someone else than by a terrorist. Indeed you have over 200 times a greater chance of being murdered by your partner, a family member or a close friend, than a terrorist.
The surveillance state has fundamentally changed society in response to a “threat” which is statistically miniscule.
It has greatly increased the power of the state, at a time when the state is both facilitating and protecting the greatest growth in wealth inequality in human history.
That is not a coincidence.
Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.https://www.craigmurray.org.uk