Reforming the Senate.

In response to Tony Abbott’s suggestion that we reform the Senate so that there could be joint sittings of both houses to pass legislation blocked by the Senate, with the need for a double dissolution.

The Australian system is that the party with the most seats in the House of Representatives forms government. The Senate is meant to be a house of review.

Abbott’s suggestion makes sense, and actually adds to the democracy, because then legislation can be passed by a majority of all the members of parliament. Legislation proposed by the government of the day cannot be frustrated by senators with minor party agendas, or even just animosity towards the government.

All this is a pity. By becoming self serving, rather than operating in the national interest, the Senate has become an obstacle to good government. If it had really operated as a house of review and not as an alternative government it would have been able to really provide a balance and a correcting force to governments.

If, for instance, the Senate were to review all legislation and suggest amendments to improve it, but then let it through, when it did come to some piece of legislation that really was unacceptable and made it clear to the government that it could not in good conscience pass that legislation, then the government would have to listen. But opposition parties, together with minor party senators, have used the senate as a place to reject almost all government legislation, thereby making it very difficult for the government to govern at all.

The Australian people elect a government based on the House of Representatives, and a senate as a house of review. The government the Australian people elected should be allowed to govern by the senate. For the senate to reject everything the government attempts means it is trying to usurp the role of government.