Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty – do politicians actually read the legislation they approve?

by Elizabeth Handley

Ask your local politician how many bills they voted on that they have actually read and understood. It is an important question when you consider the workload of most politicians, the political donations.

As recorded in an article in the Saturday paper where Gillian Trigg was interviewed by Romana Koval https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com. au/news/politics/2016/04/23/human- rights-commission-president-gillian- triggs-speaks-out/14613336003160

Gillian Triggs, the Human Rights Commission president was last year publically upbraided by the Senate Legislation Committee for nine hours.

“The chair [Queensland Senator Ian Macdonald] said, “I haven’t read The Forgotten Children’s report because I’m far too busy” Ms Triggs thought “How dare you do that when you are an elected parliamentarian and you are expected and required to read my reports.”

Romana Koval’s response “I was astonished listening to him – how could the chair of the committee say he hadn’t read the report with such pride?”

Yet this lack of reading of the report did not stop him severely criticising it and in particular its author.

Community groups Park It and Brisbane Residents United wrote submissions on the state planning legislation and were invited to appear before the Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources Committee. At that hearing it appeared to me that some of the members of the committee had not read the legislation they were investigating.

It was also appeared to me that many of the nuances of the bill had escaped them and they did not really understand what the repercussions of their decisions were. They did not appear overly concerned about warnings from the Crime and Corruption Commission that the Planning Bill was not “designed to promote accountability and transparency within the development application process” nor will they of interest” or “adequate segregation of duties across the development application process. Submission 72 – Crime and Corruption Commission

The CCC points out the probable failure of the Planning Bills to bring about good governance in Queensland. It states that, while the Bills make it easier for the regulating bodies to administer planning applications, the discretion allowed under the Bills could promote corruption. As far as we know, the CCC’s recommendations for improving the Bills to decrease this potential for corruption were given lip service, but few changes were made. The legislation was passed with bipartisan support.

This in itself is worrying, particularly when you think that this legislation development and construction industries with little to no input from the community. We know our politicians are busy but they are responsible for the outcomes of the legislation they vote in favour of. The least we should expect from them is that they have read and understood what they are in fact imposing on the citizenry.

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