EXECUTIVE            SUMMARY

 

The Draft Specifications for a Citizens Constitution presented here are intended not only, to make our dysfunctional federal system of government effective and efficient, but also, more responsive and accountable. They would obviate some of the disabilities of our political system, such as the disruptive electoral cycle, counter-productive adversarial politics, blame-shifting between governments and policy auctions at election time.

The most obvious element is the reduction of the number of levels of elected government from three to two by abolishing state parliaments and territory assemblies. Their responsibilities would be divided between a reformed national parliament, attending to issues of national significance, and enhanced local governments, acting collaboratively to attend to all others. Decision-making would be shifted toward the operational level, allowing opportunities for increased efficiency and responsiveness.

Without significant disruption, the regionalised functions of the states and territories would become the responsibility of  boards of management nominated by the local governments in the regions appropriate for each function. Local government would be enhanced by the wealth of talent released by the abolition of state parliaments.

The national parliament would consist of 400 members, elected for single terms of five years from 40 electorates. Elections , in which each voter may select one man and one women, would be held successively, one electorate at a time, by a postal ballot every six or seven weeks. The "electoral cycle" would become an historical item.

An executive council of ten would be elected from the national parliament to run the country, together with four executive committees with specific duties. One committee would appoint and manage the staff of all government services, another would set and enforce standards of financial management for governments, a third would investigate and disclose improprieties in government and its agencies, while a fourth would provide an interface with local government. Elections to these five bodies would be by a proportional method and members would hold office for not more than eight years after election. 

The 1901 constitution is an agreement between the former colonies and the Commonwealth to allocate the functions of government. The civic rights and responsibilities of citizens (who are referred to as subjects), being derived from the long tradition inherited by the colonies from the United Kingdom, are not spelled out, as they are in the constitutions of many other countries. But, recent developments stemming from the emotional, and so far ineffectual, reaction to the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, appear to threaten the continuation of that tradition. In particular, the increasing trend to secrecy in government, both state and federal, and the development of a secret police force, represent a regressive trend, which, if not corrected, will significantly reduce the status of our democracy. These proposals, therefore, include specifications for citizens’ rights and free access to public information, as well as the separation of church from state and using real values for money amounts in legislation.

In order to avoid the risk of revolutionary disruption, achievement of reform must be gradual and incremental.  The first steps would be amendments to the Constitution to give the national powers to the national government and to recognize local government in the Constitution. Each subsequent step forward would be made as circumstances allowed and previous steps were accommodated.