The Three Spokes?

Conventional wisdom is that there are three spokes to the Wheel of Democracy – The Legislature, The Executive, and The Judiciary.

The Legislature writes, reviews, and repeals as necessary the laws of the land.

The Executive is charged with implementing all necessary actions to ensure the laws are carried out.

The Judiciary hears cases where a law is brought into dispute. It is the Judiciary’s role to interpret the laws of the Legislature.

A clear separation of these can be seen in the USA where Congress makes the laws, the President and his Cabinet administer those laws while the Judiciary interprets the laws and settles any disputes arriving from the laws. Admittedly, that is very simplistic reading of the American system, but it will suffice for the purposes of this article.

Under the Australian system, the Legislature and the Executive are combined, where the party that commands a majority in the House of Representatives also fulfils the role of the Executive. Ministers are appointed from the ranks of government MPs and control their respective government departments. This approach is common to the so-called Westminister Democracies, where it also applies, such as The UK, Canada, New Zealand, etc.

This puts the public service fully under the control of an incumbent government, and the government will bend the Public Service to its will. This process has accelerated since Government Departments were corporatised and where long term Public Servants who rose to heads of department were replaced by political factotums, the Chief Executive.

Additionally, government ministers have come to rely less and less on the independent advice from senior Public Servants, relying instead on advisors who share the same political bent, see through the same lens, and can be trusted to impose their Minister’s will on the Public Service.

A wheel will be stronger when it has five spokes instead of three so I am proposing a New Democracy in which the five spokes are Electorate, Media, Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary. Each has a valuable role to play, and each must be as independent as possible from the others.

Author: Roj Blake

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