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Summit success

Briefs

Attending the 2020 Summit was an extraordinary experience for LIV Council member Iresha Herath, who was part of the discussion on the future of Australian governance.

Ms Herath said she was amazed at the feeling of goodwill at the summit at Parliament House in Canberra on 19 and 20 April, and the feeling of openness to new ideas.

“It was an extraordinary experience, and I truly did feel privileged to be there,” she said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd convened the summit which brought together about 1000 leading Australians to debate and develop long-term options for the nation across 10 key areas.

Ms Herath was involved in a sub-stream with 24 other people to discuss parliamentary reform.

Proposals to strengthen the accountability of the Executive to Parliament included:

  • the need for independent arbitration of public interest immunity claims by ministers in respect of information required by a House or a committee;
  • minimum time and process standards for passage of legislation, including committee scrutiny in both Chambers;
  • the reframing of Appropriation Bills to specify projects and programs; and
  • being able to compel ministerial advisers to appear in parliamentary forums to explain their executive actions.

Ms Herath said the sub-stream also advocated open access to government information through complete reform of freedom of information laws, and the strengthening of protections of the free press to facilitate a more open and publicly accountable government.

She said the general governance stream supported the need for an Australian republic, and also expressed strong support for a statutory Bill or Charter of Rights.

Ms Herath said these could be viewed as old ideas, but participants had been told at the start of the summit that “even old ideas are not necessarily bad ideas” and could be discussed.

“One of the other main areas discussed was the need to strengthen the participation of Australians in their governance, as well as more formal electoral processes including automatic enrolment of Australian citizens on the electoral roll when they turn 18,” she said.

Ms Herath said she would have preferred more time to discuss and debate issues, but as a beginning point to address key concerns for the nation, the summit was a “great success”.

The federal government has said it will produce a public response to options papers developed at the summit by the end of this year.

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