The Key to Your House – ep 3 – Parliamentary Process

The Key to Your House – ep 3 – Parliamentary Process


The opening ceremony of a parliament
is a very impressive affair. Here in Western Australia,
it involves all the political leaders, judges, top ranking officers
from the Armed Forces, church leaders and civic leaders. It symbolises the continuance
and stability of our democratic institutions. In the Westminster Parliament in London, the official opening by the sovereign
is, of course, even grander. Tradition, pomp and ceremony
all come together to underline the perception
that a parliament is a place deserving of respect. So why, for many members of the public, is the actual perception of Parliament something like this. – (CHAOTIC SHOUTING) – Most members of the public are unaware
that Members of the Parliament spend only less than half the year
meeting in the Parliament. The bulk of their time is spent
in their electorate office or driving
or flying around their electorate, or, if they are a Minister, in their ministerial office
helping to draft new laws. So why all the shouting?
One reason might be frustration. The Opposition has very limited control
over what happens in the Parliament. That control is in the hands of the
Government, and the Presiding Officers, the Speaker here,
and the President in the Upper House. Moving from Opposition to Government
is a daunting but rewarding experience. Moving from Government to Opposition
presents a very different challenge. – Well, obviously, like everybody,
I was devastated with the result. Er, and I lost many friends
and colleagues in the recent election. But it is what it is, erm, and we need to rebuild
and we need to regroup. And I am looking forward
to playing my part in Opposition over the next four years. In some ways,
it’s a very good training ground. You learn very much
the processes of Parliament, asking questions, being part of debates,
a whole range of things. So I’ve had the opportunity
to come in in Opposition, then in Government,
and in Opposition again. And I suppose even just saying that, it just goes to show
how the system changes and governments change
over a period of time. And, you know, I will do my part. – An election campaign
gives members of the public the chance to hold the candidates
to account. – I actually found people
are generally quite forgiving… ..if you have genuinely done your best. I think they can spot it
a lot of the time if you’re faking it or just telling them what they want to
hear to get them out of the office. I think people, particularly
if they’re dealing directly with you, as long as they feel
like they have been heard… I used to patiently run them through the
steps of what I could do to follow up. Sometimes we would deliver
some outstanding results and sometimes we wouldn’t.
We’d never promise an outcome. We would promise them
that we would follow up their request through the steps that I would outline
for them in a meeting and we would seek to get
the best outcome that we could. So I actually generally found people
were not disappointed. – Question Time is what the public
think the Parliament is all about. But it is only 45 minutes
of the parliamentary day. Ultimately, it could be described
as a game of confidence. There is a lot of theatre
in Question Time. It is a chance for the Opposition
to unsettle the Government and try to undermine their confidence. Question Time can give the perception that the Parliament
has descended into a shambles. But there is a method in the madness. The Opposition is trying to land
a knockout blow to the Government and Question Time is one of the best
opportunities to try that, because the television
and newspaper reporters are all watching and waiting for something dramatic
to happen. But if that is all you see reported
about what goes on in Parliament, then it is not surprising that
many people have a very negative view of Parliament and its Members. – Reporters, we need to get stories. We need to find out
what’s going on in government, what’s going on in political parties, and we’ve gotta be able to speak
to politicians, and I guess, to some extent,
get their confidence in some areas, but through politicians, get the stories
to tell readers, viewers and listeners. So we both need each other. Although, it must be noted,
with the fracturing of the media, with the social media,
different ways, tweeting, different ways of getting messages out, perhaps there is starting to be
a breakdown between political reporters
and politicians. Because you might have seen it
in Question Time. Politicians are tweeting
all through Question Time to, sort of, various followers. So they’re bypassing
the traditional media. So there are things starting to change and perhaps it’s a move
away from politicians needing journalists all the time. But I don’t think the relationship
will break completely. – So why doesn’t the public see more
of what else happens in Parliament? The reason is, perhaps, that what
happens during the rest of the day, although very important,
is not as interesting from the public’s point of view. Presenting petitions and reports, consideration in detail,
grievances, all sound pretty dull. Parliament is where
the laws that govern us are made. But how does an idea become a policy
brought in by the Government and then go on to become a law? An example is the Hoons Bill, brought in
by the Barnett government in 2016. – We’ve implemented
a range of initiatives around hoons. So when we first came to government, we changed the impoundment
and confiscation rules. So for a person caught hooning
for a first offence, they have their vehicle
impounded for a month. On the second offence,
it’s for three months. On a third offence, we take,
confiscate the vehicle permanently. Overwhelmingly,
when I went into the community, the thing that people complained about
most was the hoon vehicles. And that’s because
they’re really worried about it. When they hear tyres
screeching and squealing, they’re concerned that that vehicle is going to come hurtling
through their lounge room. And one particular example,
I was out in High Wycombe, and there was a major road,
Newburn Road, a primary school. The local government had put in some
traffic modification systems in there, so a speed hump and a few other things. It was a 40kmph school zone
with flashing school signage. And after those speed humps went in, what the hoons in that area would do, when the school was in session,
as well, I might add, when parents were bringing
their children to and from school and the crossing guard was there, is they would park
on top of the speed hump and use it as a launching ramp
to take off down the road. So out of that we decided that behaviour
was so inherently dangerous that there needed to be
a particularly harsh consequence for those individuals. So the hoon legislation we introduced was for specific circumstances, hooning in a 40kmph,
an active school zone, or a 50kmph limited zone, if you’re charged with one of those
hoon offences, reckless driving, you’ll have your vehicle impounded
on the first offence. However, it needs to be an application
to the court for that consequence. – This is the first reading of the bill, simply a Minister asking the Parliament
to present a new bill. Now, this is an example of how
the Hoons Bill went on to become a law. – Acting Speaker, I move that the bill
now be read a second time. The Road Traffic Amendment (Impounding
and Confiscation of Vehicles)… – (Man) Excuse me, Minister.
Members, I think you may need to take your conversations outside the chamber
so that we can hear this. Thank you, Minister. – Acting Speaker,
the Road Traffic Amendment (Impounding and Confiscation
of Vehicles) Bill 2016 contains measures to address
the reckless use of motor vehicles on our roads. Broadly, this bill amends the Road
Traffic Act 1974 Road Traffic Act and associated legislation to provide additional powers
for a court to confiscate a vehicle used to commit
an impounding offence driving, or as these are colloquially known,
a hoon offence. – If a bill or a proposed law
passes the Lower House, it must now be submitted to
the Upper House for their consideration. And the whole process starts again. First reading, second reading,
third reading. If it passes the Upper House, it goes to the Governor,
who signs it on behalf of the Queen. And it is now a law. I said “if it passes” because the Upper House
is under no obligation to pass a bill. If the Upper House
in the Western Australian Parliament refuses to pass a bill, there is nothing
the Lower House can do about it. Unlike in the Federal Parliament, where if the Senate
refuses to pass a bill twice, the House of Representatives, the Lower
House, can call for an election. – What happens, of course,
is that every piece of legislation has to pass through both houses. But all money bills have to be introduced in the Legislative
Assembly, the Lower House. And then those bills are then
transferred to the Upper House, the Legislative Council,
the Red Chamber. And the Red Chamber,
the Legislative Council, can, in fact, not amend such a bill… ..but it can reject them. So the Legislative Council
can reject the money bills, the major budget item for the state. But not only that, the Legislative Council assumes its seats on 22nd May… well, in 2017, and it has a four-year term, till 21st May 2021. The house can not be removed
or dissolved. So if it says and votes to reject supply, they can force a government to the polls without going themselves. – It has been said that the Western
Australian Legislative Council is the most powerful Upper House
in Australia. Did you know that
in a Westminster parliament, such as ours here in Western Australia, members on opposite sides
must stand so far apart that their swords cannot touch? This comes from the days long ago when the Members
would wear their swords into Parliament and they had to be kept
a certain distance apart in case a fight broke out. If you got too close
to a Member opposite, the Speaker would shout out,
“Toe the line!” which meant put your toe
behind the line. But a parliament is not just
about arguing and bluff and bluster. Sometimes it is about all the Members
coming together in agreement about a particular issue. A really good example of this was
the Apology to Unmarried Mothers Motion debated in the Western Australian
Parliament in 2010. Another example
is the Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal People Bill 2015. This was a Private Member’s Bill
introduced by the Member for Kimberley, Josie Farrer,
to recognise the Aboriginal people as the traditional owners of the land. The bill received great support
from both sides of the house. In 2012, a motion concerning the
Kimberley ultramarathon was introduced, and also received great support
from both sides. So, you see,
the Members can agree sometimes. In fact, they agree on many things. What they argue about is the detail.
And that is their job. Great British parliamentarian and former
Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill said of the Westminster system was that it was the worst system
except for all the others. If a parliament
is a mirror of the people, then it will possess
all the imperfections and all the good and all the not so good
that the people also possess. It can’t help but be that way.

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