Protecting Democracy in the Upper House

Last night Abigail spoke out against the NSW Government's attempt to impose a President on the Upper House despite their lack of majority votes. Today the Upper House continues its fundamental role in this democracy of holding the Government to account.

Abigail said:

When we began this process and we were presented with the candidates we were presented with, I for one was not happy with the candidates that were given to us. Under the standing orders, if there is no clear result the process is that the Government goes away and comes back after negotiating to find a consensus candidate. It is absolutely valid for the crossbench to have informal votes or whatever you want to call it and to have nothing on the ballot paper. It is absolutely valid for us to do that if we thought that it would lead to a process where we could have some collaboration and discussion about who a consensus candidate would be. That is why we voted that way on the basis of the advice that was given to us, and that was a valid and democratic thing to do.

I do not regret doing that. I think that was the right thing to do. I had no idea at that time that what we would then end up with is a Government that is so arrogant that it will not come and talk to us about what we might accept. We got offers of, perhaps, potential deals for things—you know, "What kind of policy deal would you like?" to get someone else in; completely irrelevant garbage—to talk about who we would have governing this House, who we would have upholding the standards of this House and who would be a consensus candidate. No‑one came to us before the Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones was put up to say, "Hey, do you think maybe this is a candidate that you can support?" The Government thought that what it could do is just force its candidate upon us.

The Government does not have the numbers in this House to tell us what to do. It is so offensive to democracy and to the way we run this House to have these bullying tactics. Now for this to happen, for this trespass against the presidency to occur where you just physically march a person in—that is the ultimate in forcing what you want to happen instead of actually having a discussion with people about what they might accept. That is why we are in the position we are in today. If there was any doubt about why I did not support the Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones being President, it was because I was concerned that she may not uphold the powers of the House in the way that I want her to in order to have the orderly running of this House. That has been put beyond doubt. To sit in that chair against the clear will of the majority of this House shows that there is no respect for what this House is about, which is as a separate body to the Executive. We do not take our instructions from the Government and that is why this is such an important issue. I ask that we carry on, get on with this, go to a ballot and put in place somebody who has the consensus and acceptance of this House.

 

To see the full debate, visit Hansard here.

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