The website Australian Constitution Centre is designed to teach school aged children about our ‘…Australian Constitution and the Australian system of government.’
Under the heading How else am I protected by the Constitution? is the following statement:
Our Constitution is structured to protect our system of government. These protections mean we don’t have to worry about our country becoming a dictatorship. Only the courts can exercise judicial power. The Government cannot lock up their opposition and throw away the key!
The enabling legislation before the Victorian Upper House has such far-reaching powers that at sometime in the future the probability that the Victorian Opposition, or any free citizen including other political voices, could not be locked up is now not wholly certain. So is none of this potential risk of dictatorship in Victoria not a concern to the Federal Government?
In her interview on Friday night on The McGregor Angle on Sky, Qld LNP Senator Amanda Stoker discussed the Federal Government looking not to do anything about the Victorian enabling Bill currently before the Victoria’s Upper House by using the “careful what you wish for” adage of the classical “States Righter.” But if the Federal Government will not intervene as Stoker intimated in her interview – she is the Assistant Attorney General – is this because the Coalition is full to the brim of “States Righters” or is this more a case of politics and the next election?
I am not suggesting that Stoker’s support for states rights is not her legitimate default position but given the current situation in Australia, especially in Victoria, where the real rights of citizens have been shockingly abused and are in manifest danger if the Andrews’ Bill is passed, the defence of states rights “always and everywhere” against the Commonwealth “bully” is, I think, become arguable. For what we have seen over the last year is an overbearing use of power and force by the individual Australian States over citizens and yet not a word of warning from the Commonwealth.
As a States Rights advocate, Stoker must know very well the sections of the Constitution that address the rights of the States, what those rights are and what previous cases defended/limited states rights. If she has not considered how the proposed Victorian powers will work in relation to the Constitution that would be remiss for the Commonwealth Assistant Attorney General and astute legal scholar interested in states rights. In fact it would be remiss if she has not examined the Bill herself or asked for departmental advice given her position and given the amount of correspondence she said her office has received from Victorians asking the Federal Government for help to stop the legislation’s enactment.
What then is the reason for her (and the Government’s?) seeming disinterestedness in what could be the advent of a health dictatorship in Victoria? I can only think of one reason and it is to the political that I turn. There are many federal coalition seats in Qld and WA in which a strong protest vote maybe felt by the Morrison Government because of its move to a nett zero emissions target by 2050 – remembering that at the 2019 Federal Election it campaigned vigorously against the Federal Labor policy of a nett 45% emission reduction target below 2005 levels. Before the Glasgow announcement, a number of non-government held seats in NSW (Hunter, Paterson and Gilmore) were looking favourable for the Government – or at least unfavourable for Labor – and could have become important potential gains for a Government with a tiny majority in the House. Following its climate change decision, if Coalition HoR Seats are to be lost in the north and in the west of the country and the status quo prevails in NSW – (though some of those western Sydney seats may not be looking as healthy now,) where else may seats be found to shore up the Government’s chances?
In Victoria, the Coalition control fifteen of the HoR seats whereas Labor has twenty-one – there is also a Green (Melb) and an Independent (Indi). By hiding behind the states rights issue vis-à-vis the Victorian Government’s enabling Bill, is the Government thinking that Victorian electors in frustration with Andrews will smash federal Labor at the next election – a rehashing of the demise of the Goss Government when voters were waiting on their verandas with baseball bats for Keating, and used Goss as batting practice, as Goss famously said?
If so, this would be a most egregious case of political self-interest over what is a frightening reality of dictatorship powers about to befall all Victorians.