Parliament at a time of virus

Electoral Regulation Research Network recorded video

Thursday 9 April 2020


  • Dr Stephen Mills

About the Talk:

The emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia in March and April 2020 saw an unprecedented expansion of the authority of executive government at the expense of parliament. This development poses troubling questions for the Australian system of representative democracy, and followed other recent extensions of ministerial power. During the pandemic, the House of Representatives was reduced to an unrepresentative rump, and its operations were curtailed and ultimately suspended. Each of its five principal functions (representation, executive legitimisation, authorisation, deliberation and accountability) were substantially curtailed. Several procedural innovations were proposed to allow parliament to play a continuing role in the management of the crisis, and a Senate Select Committee was established with an enhanced scrutiny role. The article appraises these proposals from the perspective that parliament can and should be involved in the management and oversight of response to this and future crises.

This video presentation "Parliament at a time of virus" by Dr Stephen Mills builds upon an opinion piece '"Where no counsel is, the people fall": why parliaments should keep functioning during the coronavirus crisis'  published in The Conversation.

About the Speaker:

Dr Stephen Mills is honorary senior lecturer, School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney. His research specialises in campaign management, campaign finance, campaign communications and party organisation. He has written three papers for ERRN’s working papers series, and was a co-author of the ERRN report 'Implications of Changes to Voting Channels in Australia’ (2018). He served as speechwriter to the late Prime Minister R J L Hawke (1986-1991).