State of the Federation
The 11th Henry Parkes Oration: Ted Mack
Saturday 26 October 2013. Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts, Tenterfield
With distrust of politicians and disillusionment with Australia’s political systems at an all-time high, legendary independent Ted Mack believes fundamental change is required. Delivering the 2013 Henry Parkes Oration in Tenterfield NSW, where Parkes gave his celebrated ‘Federation Speech’ on 24 October 1889, Mack called for “examination of the many problems of our system of government in order to establish directions for reform”.
As the only person to have been elected, and then re-elected, as an independent to all three tiers of government in Australia, Ted Mack is uniquely positioned to reflect on this task. He believes the state of the federation has never been so unsatisfactory, claiming it has reached this nadir “because of the obsolescence and self-regulation inherent in the constitution”. He believes we need “new electoral systems to reflect the will of the people”.
Mack sets out a process for approaching constitutional reform starting with a “fully elected constitutional commission convened on the basis of one-vote-one-value on an Australia-wide proportional basis”. He sees such a commission as having the power to utilise polling and to put plebiscites to the people, ideally to coincide with elections to establish fundamental directions. It would “meet for short sessions over a substantial period of time, and eventually be authorised to institute a referendum on the basis that the new constitution will not come into effect for say, seven years – in order to reduce the impact of short-term partisan motives.” He also believes there is a need for an “integrity level of government separate from executive government and parliament”. Such a role would be spelt out in the Constitution as having no power in relation to political policy but only power to ensure integrity of government and to ensure the Constitution is upheld.
Mack acknowledges that serious reform is perhaps many years into the future and “the obstacles and enemies of democratic reform are many”. Democracy is making reasonable progress, he says, but there is a long way to go.
The Oration was broadcast on the ABC’s Big Ideas program on 28 November 2013. Listen on the ABC website.