Currently three different parties are represented in the House of Assembly. Depending on numbers, one group forms the Government and the rest form the Opposition. The government sets an agenda, which is more often than not opposed by non-government members, and then is scrutinised by the Legislative Council. So in some respects, the government in the House of Assembly is activist. There are of course many activists outside the parliament who seek to influence the opinions of electors and of all parliamentarians. This is an appropriate role for activists, but being a member of the Legislative Council is not an appropriate role.
While the role of any parliamentarian should include a role as an advocate for his or her electorate, and a role as an advocate for individuals within that electorate, it is also of the upmost importance for a Legislative Council member to be an advocate for the good government of Tasmania. To do so, requires an objective and open mind which is used to critically assess each and every issue, and each and every proposed legislative provision on an evidence-based case-by-case basis.
To best fulfill the purpose of the Legislative Council, a member should be independent, which means not only to be independent of party endorsement, allegiance or influence – whether past or present – but also to be an independent thinker. It is not possible to be a truly independent thinker if a member is captive to an ideology which results in a predetermined position on issues without even having considered a particular proposal and the evidence for or against it.
The model of the Legislative Council as a house of review, rather than a house of activism, has served our system of government, and therefore Tasmania, very well. Tasmania is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family, and this is in part as a result of a parliamentary system which has been generally successful. This is not to say that it is perfect, and of course refinements and appropriate reforms should be constantly considered. However, to change our parliamentary system by turning the Legislative Council into a house of activism, and electing political crusaders and zealots with entrenched positions and platforms is to suggest that the long-standing model of a house of review is not working.
The Legislative Council is not created to be a platform for activists to pursue their pet issues or narrow-focused agenda. The Legislative Council’s key activity is law-making and a hard working Legislative Council member should be thoroughly occupied scrutinising government activity and undertaking a dispassionate, balanced, open-minded and objective analysis of government proposals and legislation.
EXPERIENCED, MODERATE, PRACTICAL.