“The drivers of the Centre Alliance, such as seeking accountability, refusing to ‘horse trade’ and being willing to take on hard issues would be a huge improvement to ACT politics,” writes MICHAEL MOORE.
THE Centre Alliance Party is working more and more effectively in the Federal parliament as competent, philosophically centrist crossbenchers.
In the ACT we have a burning need for the same.
Holding the government accountable is part of the job. Just as important is ensuring that government can get on with its program when it is in the best interests of the community. The best interests of the community go beyond looking after the majority.
The key role for the Centre Alliance was set out in founder Nick Xenophon’s first speech in the Senate.
“An independent must take every issue as it comes and ask: ‘If we change things, who might it hurt and who will it help?’ and then hopefully make the right choice,” he said.
“I have tended not to see things in terms of Left or Right. Instead, I try to think about what is right and what is wrong”.
One concern many voters have regarding crossbench members is the exercise of disproportionate power. The then-Senator Xenophon also addressed this issue.
“Horse trading implies a willingness to vote for something you do not believe in in order to get something else you want,” he said.
“When people do try to horse trade they can end up with a donkey or, worse still, end up making an ass of themselves.”
In 2016, South Australian Rebekha Sharkie came into parliament as the member for Mayo under the Xenophon banner (later to become the Centre Alliance).
She launched her political career identifying a positive approach to the role of crossbenchers seeking a “move away from short-term fixes to sensible, informed and evidence-based planning. The long-term prosperity of our nation depends on it”.
She also took on the growing acrimony in our politics and concerning disparity in Australia.
“We must, as a nation, move away from language that is divisive and hurtful. ‘Lifters’ and ‘leaners’, the ‘taxed’ and the ‘not taxed’ – this language does not bring us together; it divides us. It is not helpful, true or necessary,” she said.
Her colleague Senator Stirling Griff also took up this call when elected in 2016.
“I am not open to fear and hate campaigns for political gain and control,” he said.
“Fear is a powerful tool, but one I personally find abhorrent and destructive”.
He has also raised fundamental concerns undermining our democracy: “The creeping role of dark money in politics is a threat to Australian democracy, and to combat it we need more timely disclosure of donations and a substantial lowering of disclosure amounts”.
Political donations remain a key responsibility of strong crossbenchers (as it should be for all politicians). Donations ought not influence political decision making.
When Nick Xenophon stepped down from the Senate his place was taken by Rex Patrick whose influence and impact has been increasing significantly since the Morrison government was returned to power.
He brings to the table sensible, evidence-based decisions in the best interests of the community.
In his first speech in the Senate, Patrick included a reflection on how he should go about his role.
“How do we, as individuals and as a chamber, achieve the lofty aims that we set ourselves and that are demanded of us in the Constitution?” he said.
“We should not exercise power irresponsibly, but by the same token we must also recognise that there are circumstances when it is also irresponsible not to exercise a power”.
In the ACT we have no equivalent to the Centre Alliance. The Greens, like their counterparts in the Federal Parliament, sit to the left of the Labor Party. They play an important role. However, the drivers of the Centre Alliance, such as seeking accountability, refusing to “horse trade” and being willing to take on hard issues would be a huge improvement to ACT politics.