A healthy democracy is a fundamental prerequisite for a safe, equitable and happy community living in a healthy, natural world.
A healthy democracy requires probity, transparency and accountability in all branches of government. It is driven by a well-funded and vocal civil society. It flourishes only with engaged citizens who are supported by laws and policies to have a genuine, equitable and effective voice to their representatives, both at the polls and in the process of Government consultation and collaboration.
The Greens believe that a healthy democracy requires consistent and active measures to engage all members of the ACT’s diverse community in decision-making and a long term vision to inform Government policies and program spending. ACT Government decision-making should have the wellbeing of ACT community members, flora, fauna and country as its central purpose.
The ACT Greens have a vision for more active citizen participation in policy development, improving processes by which Canberrans and their local communities have input into consultation, budgeting and parliamentary committee work.
Despite improvements in recent years, the ACT approach to consultation on the issues really affecting our community is still lacking. It is often cursory, rushed or only started once substantive decisions have already been made, locking in a particular direction. This constrains the ‘blue sky thinking’ required for effective and creative co-design and collaboration on some of our most challenging and pressing community issues.
Even with the best and most effective consultation, there are limits to the capacity of citizens to engage with all the issues and technicalities of our laws and policies. This is why we need accountable, evidence-based government.
The Legislative Assembly, the youngest parliament in Australia, is the primary interface and place of civic connection for Canberrans. In a small but growing city state we are more connected to our politicians than anywhere else, and in many ways feel the impacts of the passage of new laws and government decision making more closely. This is why our parliamentary rules, conventions and structures must keep pace with changing community expectations, and to back that up we rely on having impartial, independent and transparent oversight agencies and accountability processes.
Legislated integrity and oversight agencies that are free from outside influence are also vital for a healthy democracy. Better support for these oversight agencies, and for Assembly Committees to engage with their reporting, will strengthen our democracy and governance systems.
That’s why the ACT Greens will strengthen our democracy, to build a better normal, by:
- COVID recovery - establishing a Community Recovery Cabinet Committee with ministers and sector representatives
- Assembly reform
- Increasing funding to the Legislative Assembly committee system to better support improved consultation and oversight of Government activity
- Vesting the relevant committees with an explicit remit for oversight of statutory offices within their subject matter expertise and ensure monitoring of Government implementation of all recommendations made by these offices
- Including the functions of Standing Committee on Gender Equity within one of the proposed new Standing Committees
- Funding creation of a publically accessible systemic Assembly questions search function, that incorporates questions on notice, and questions for all committees, including estimates
- Reviewing the ‘matters of public importance’ system to create a debate mechanism whereby the public can petition to have matters debated in the chamber
- Establishing a system of post-legislative community assessment of significant bills to determine whether they have achieved their aims
- Executive reform
- Reinforcing powers and processes for all statutory office holders to monitor and follow up on the implementation of their review, audit or inquiry recommendations
- Strengthening genuine cabinet whole of government considerations
- Establishing a convention of an annual address for the Chief Minister and other party leaders in the Assembly on the long term ‘Vision for Canberra’s grandchildren’
- Ensuring a holistic approach to government decision-making and reporting, including consistent, meaningful and measurable strategic and accountability indicators based on wellbeing
- Government economic management and budget processes, including estimates, to be focused on the wellbeing of community members, flora, fauna and country.
- Appointing a Coordinator General for Justice Reinvestment
- Increasing open and transparent access to government information, thereby reducing the need for Freedom of Information Act applications
- Ensuring all MLAs have access to climate impact analyses of proposed legislation
- Review the Assembly Art program policy and ensure that the ACT Legislative Assembly Art collection is gender balanced
- Statutory office reform
- A review of statutory office holder independence including whether any other statutory office holders should be made Officers of the Parliament
- Establishment of a First Nations Social Justice Commissioner
- Creation of an additional Official Visitor for aged care
- Require worker and consumer representation on the board of every ACT territory owned corporation or Government business
- Democracy reform
- Banning roadside corflutes in the Electoral Act
- A review of Electoral Act and 2020 election
- Better support democratic participation through funding traffic control costs for protests, and extend public liability insurance for small community activities
- Procurement and investment reform
- procurement to audit supply chains for modern-day slavery, exploitation or trafficking
- reviewing the Indigenous Procurement Policy and its application across Government agencies by 2022
- investigating expanding the Local Industry Participation Policy
- Stronger ethical investment processes for ACT Government funds, including co-sponsoring resolutions
- changing Government procurement to preference zero waste and recycled products
- diverting ACT Government business support funding away from the defence industry
- changing Government procurement to preference zero waste and recycled products
- supporting direct partnerships between our food producers, with use of CBR branding and labelling for local food and investigate minimum targets for the Canberra region food in procurement.
1. COVID recovery - establishing a Community Recovery Cabinet Committee with ministers and sector representatives
The Greens understand the need to improve community sector and government coordination. We will work with the sector to form a Community Recovery Cabinet to provide ongoing advice to government as we work towards a better normal.
The Greens note that there appears to be less coordination between the ACT Government and the peak bodies of the sector than there has been in previous years. To properly face the challenges of the next four years, in a time of significantly reduced budgets but increased community demand, and with a public service that, like all of us, is experiencing the difficulties of living and working during the global health emergency that COVID 19 presents, we must work together better than ever before.
The ACT Greens want ongoing and robust feedback and support from the broader community sector on targeted interventions and development of responsive initiatives. We understand that it is in coordination with the sector that we can best assess the areas of community need. That is why we propose to establish a Community Recovery Cabinet that will allow the leaders of the relevant peaks and the responsible ministers and senior directorate officers to work together - to harness the real time feedback from those peaks that both represent individual frontline member organisations and provide systemic advocacy.
We expect that the composition of the Community Recovery Cabinet would include peak organisations such as ACTCOSS, ACT Shelter, Mental Health Community Coalition, Council of the Ageing, People with Disability, Youth Coalition, First Nations representation, the women's sector, Conservation Council and the business sector. It would operate as a committee of cabinet, with non-Executive members (ie. community sector representatives), and any member of the committee will be able to bring forward papers for discussion. Government will then be responsible, along with appropriate sector representatives, for implementation of joint decisions.
This will require a co-designed high-level partnership for it to work effectively together. The details will need to be determined in close cooperation with key sector bodies’ feedback, alongside government directorate feedback, to ensure long-term workable relationships, decision-making and implementation abilities.
2. Assembly reform
The Greens want to ensure that ACT Government decision-making, legislation, policies and programs is informed by genuine, ongoing community engagement that is meaningful, respectful and transparent.
a. increased funding to the Legislative Assembly committee system to enable better and deeper consultation and oversight of Government activity
The standing and select committee processes are a vital part of our Assembly system, giving the public a clear voice to provide information to inform consideration of issues across party lines, and a mechanism for detailed questioning of Ministers and Directorate decision makers on the operation of government.
The Greens will commit additional funding to employ more Committee support staff to help the Committees consult more in the conduct of their functions and get through their work of scrutiny and investigation of public policy matters more expeditiously and thoroughly, as recommended by the 2019 Latimer House Principles review of parliamentary independence, ethical governance and accountability, and consistent with the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedures Inquiry into the the Committee Structure for the Tenth Assembly.
The Greens will ensure that each committee has a dedicated secretary and dedicated research officer to support the work of the committees.
b. Vest the relevant committees with an explicit remit for oversight of statutory offices within their subject matter expertise and ensure monitoring of Government implementation of all recommendations made by these offices.
The Greens believe that the committee system could play a stronger role in supporting statutory office holders to oversight the executive and make and implement recommendations to improve the functioning of Government. The Greens believe that the relevant Standing Committee should be given explicit functions covering statutory offices to better monitor and audit implementation of recommendations made by statutory offices, as well as liaising with statutory office holders to bring their concerns to the attention of Government through the channels other than the responsible Minister.
The relevant Committee would also provide a useful forum for handling complaints about statutory office holders or their staff, where legislation has not provided other mechanisms for dealing with such complaints. These processes would utilise existing committee powers only and would not be able to sanction or direct office holders, but would simply provide a public forum for hearing grievances and if necessary making recommendations to the Executive about the need for improvements to processes.
c. Include the functions of Standing Committee on Gender Equity within one of the proposed new Standing Committees
The Greens believe in a gender led recovery from COVID-19. There is ample evidence that women have been the hardest hit as a result of the loss of jobs and working hours, and there needs to be a particular focus on gender equity throughout the next four years as Canberra builds a better normal. A Standing Committee, such as the Economic Development committee should be given remit to focus on gender equity.
d. Funding to create a systemic Assembly questions search function, that incorporates questions on notice, and questions for all committees, including estimates
The Greens believe that the current system of Assembly questions on notice is an important way to gather information about the operation of government, matters of public importance and the administration of policies and programs. This important function is currently hampered significantly by the lack of a simple and effective register of questions and answers that can be easily searched and accessed outside of Hansard.
The Greens will invest $200,000 to develop a publicly searchable electronic register of all Assembly and committee questions, questions on notice, questions taken on notice and responses from Ministers that will be grouped and filtered by Minister, questioner, portfolio, theme, and issue.
This database will help ensure that valuable public information is easily accessible on the public record and is not lost in the churn of Assembly business and Hansard.
e. Review the ‘matters of public importance’ and petitions system to create a debate mechanism whereby the public can petition to have matters debated in the chamber, drawn up as legislation
The Greens want a new process introduced to better support issues important to the community to be discussed in the chamber by Members of the Assembly. At present the topic for debate for ‘Matters of Public Importance’ (MPI) is nominated by non-executive MLAs. The Greens believe that there should be greater public participation in our Assembly processes, including for MPIs.
We also want an enhanced petition system, whereby a clear threshold of 1000 petition signatories is set for a matter to be listed for public debate in the Assembly as a Matter of Public Importance, rather than the usual process of simply being referred to the government for an often cursory government response in three months. This would enhance our democracy by providing a more direct path for citizens to raise community concerns for Assembly discussion and consideration.
f. Establishing a system of post-legislative community assessment of significant bills to determine whether they have achieved their aims
The Greens believe in participatory democracy throughout the law making process. This means not only getting community input into proposed laws and budgets, in the application and operation of those laws, but importantly, in the review and evaluation of laws.
Very little reform legislation is subject to formalised review against its stated aims and policy objectives. Where there are reviews it is normally to see what other changes need to follow to address gaps or oversights in the changes. The Greens want to introduce a systematic process for Assembly review of significant legislation, including community feedback on the operation of the laws on an everyday level.
The Greens consider that this function could be coordinated, perhaps by the Committee for Administration and Procedures, on a rolling basis. Committee examination would include a call for community feedback (addressing the effects of legislation, whether intended policy objectives have been met, whether there are gaps or unintended consequences etc) on significant laws three years after their commencement. These reviews could then inform further Committee consideration of the issues, reports to the responsible minister and executive reform of the law in question.
3. Executive reform
The Greens want to ensure more accountability and transparency in ACT Government planning, processes and decisions. We will do this by:
a. Reinforcing powers and processes for all statutory office holders to monitor and follow up on the implementation of their review, audit or inquiry recommendations
The Greens believe that our system of independent agencies providing oversight of Government operations is a valuable check on executive power. The Greens want the expectation that review, inquiry, audit or report recommendations made by Assembly Committees, the Auditor-General’s Office, Statutory Office holders, the Coroner or independent reviews are responded to in full and updates given as changes are implemented. The ACT Government is also signatory to a broad range of strategies, plans and frameworks, which while are the responsibilities of individual directorates, often expire without clear review or continuation. We will explore centralising monitoring of implementation of the recommendations from these various reports and reviews within the Chief Ministers Social Policy unit.
b. Strengthen genuine cabinet whole of government considerations
The Greens believe that the cabinet submission circulation process is a crucial part of integrated policy development, allowing the whole of the Government and independent offices involved in public administration to comment on proposals and how they will impact the government and community. The Greens want to strengthen genuine cabinet whole of government considerations by ensuring that all agency comments on cabinet documents submitted during circulation and exposure are made available to cabinet in a timely fashion, and that Statutory Office Holders and independent agencies are provided with genuine opportunities to review and make comments on all cabinet submissions (as appropriate).
The Greens want the timeliness of this consultation process to be improved to allow genuine opportunity to consider the detail and nuances of submissions and provide detailed comments on proposals, so that cabinet has the best information available to it when making decisions.
c. Establishing a convention of an annual Party Leaders’ address in the Assembly on the long term ‘Vision for Canberra’s grandchildren’
The Greens believe that the climate crisis demands our political system expand its vision. The ACT Legislative Assembly made a Climate Change Emergency Declaration in 2019, and we believe that this means that the Assembly now has a responsibility to take action to address this emergency. The decisions we make now will shape the Canberra, and the world that will be inherited by our children and their children. The focus of our political systems on the short term political and electoral cycles can distort our responses to long term generational questions about the direction of our society and the impacts of our current ways of doing things.
A child born today will live and raise their children in a very different world to ours, and will need to deal with challenges that are only just emerging, as well as all the problems we have not fixed.
The Greens believe that there needs to be a consistent practice of assessing the longer term issues facing us from the perspective of those who come after us.
The Greens will establish a convention of an annual Party Leader’s address on their ‘Grandchildren’s vision’. This would require each party leader to set out their 30 year vision for our community and detail how their party is acting to leave a positive legacy and a better Canberra for the children of children born today.
d. A holistic approach to government decision-making and reporting, including consistent, meaningful and measurable strategic and accountability indicators based on wellbeing
The Greens supported work to develop the wellbeing framework for the ACT community. The Greens want to see this work and the wellbeing domains and indicators inform decision making and reporting across Government. This means that briefs, reports and submissions produced within the ACT Government should be aligned with the wellbeing domains and clearly articulate how proposals will improve community wellbeing, and how that advance will be measured.
e. Government economic management and budget processes, including estimates, to be focused on the wellbeing of community members, flora, fauna and country
The Greens believe that in order for the wellbeing framework to be integrated into all Government decision making requires the budget process and estimates processes must be focused on the wellbeing framework. The Government or budget priorities should be framed around how they will enhance wellbeing across the varied domains, and the Committee estimates and annual reporting examination processes should be focused on wellbeing framework outcomes. Considering wellbeing throughout the decision process on spending is essential for the Government to pursue a holistic, vision for a better normal for Canberra that is aligned with delivering a better quality of life for the community.
f. Appoint a Coordinator General for Justice Reinvestment
The Greens understand that justice reinvestment requires long term thinking and commitment, and to truly drive the change we need to see, we will create a Coordinator-General for Justice Reinvestment empowered to work across government and deeply engage with the community. The Coordinator-General will effectively work across portfolios to embed justice reinvestment in whole of government actions and policy making - similar to the Coordinator General for Family Violence.
g. Open and transparent access to government information, including a clear presumption of proactive disclosure as part of a robust freedom-of-information system.
The Greens want to ensure that the default position under Freedom of Information law is that government reports and reports to government are published. The Greens want ongoing review and reform of the FOI system so that barriers to appropriate open access to information, whether legislative or customary, are removed. We believe that in particular, this approach must be strengthened in the area of care and protection.
h. Ensuring all MLAs have access to climate impact analyses of proposed legislation
The Cabinet Handbook only requires a climate change impact where an Environmental Impact Statement is required or where the value of a capital project is over $15 million. Consistent with the 2019 ACT Legislative Assembly’s Climate Change Emergency Declaration, the Greens believe that in the midst of this climate emergency, all proposed legislation should be accompanied by a climate change impact analysis that sets out what affect the legislation will have on the Government’s commitments to 100% renewables and net zero emissions.
i. Review the Assembly Art Program policy and ensure that the ACT Legislative Art collection is gender balanced.
The Greens believe that the Assembly Art program policy be updated to ensure that there is equal representation of women or non-binary artists in the Assembly collection.
4. Statutory office reform
a. Investigate whether any other statutory office holders should be made Officers of the Parliament
There are currently four officers of the Assembly - the Electoral Commission, the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman and now the Integrity Commission. The Greens want to investigate whether other statutory office holders should be made Officers of the Legislative Assembly.
b. Establishment of a First Nations Social Justice Commissioner
The Greens will establish an office of First Nations Social Justice Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission with powers of oversight to work for the wellbeing of First Nations peoples in the ACT. The Commissioner would be an identified position, and a designated champion and advocate for First Nations social justice. This position would drive holistic and systemic reform across Government to improve outcomes for First Nations peoples in close consultation with the Elected Body and our First Nations community controlled organisations.
c. Creation of an additional Official Visitor for aged care
Official Visitors already exist for homelessness, disability, mental health and corrections. The role of the Official Visitor is independent and receives and investigates complaints about care provided in residential settings. Whilst the Commonwealth is largely responsible for the provision of aged care, an Official Visitor would provide additional oversight for this vulnerable group. This is all the more necessary as we see the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and as the COVID pandemic highlights increased risks for people in aged care settings.
d. Require worker and consumer representation on the board of every ACT territory owned corporation or Government business
The Greens believe that businesses are better run when they are informed by diverse perspectives and views. It’s not just directors or shareholders that have an interest in the operations and direction of a business. It’s also the workers and the consumers of the business’s services. The Greens believe that these groups should also have a voice in the governance of a business. The Greens will amend legislation and company documents to require worker and consumer representation on the board of every ACT territory owned corporation or Government business.
5. Democracy reform
a. Banning roadside corflutes in the Electoral Act
Under current laws, there is no limit to the number of roadside electoral corflutes that can be used in the ACT – which see thousands of plastic roadside corflutes flood the streets of Canberra six weeks out from each ACT election. The Greens have not used roadside corflutes since the 2016 election, and instead, corflutes were displayed in private yards or held by volunteers for limited times. This avoided the waste of thousands of plastic corflutes being destroyed often within hours of being erected.
b. Review the Electoral Act and 2020 election during the 10th Assembly
The electoral system is strengthened by regular review, and consideration of reforms by a multi-partisan committee in each Assembly.
c. Better support democratic participation through funding traffic control costs for protests, and extend public liability insurance for small community activities
Protest is an important part of a healthy democracy that supports rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Protests in the ACT are largely unregulated.The ACT Government’s Guidance for Events policy for gatherings on public land set out a number of requirements which may apply including the need for a booking in popular public spaces, and a temporary traffic management plan if the protest will require road closures. This may require further supporting documentation including Site Map, a Risk Management Plan, a Waste Management Plan and Public Liability Insurance to the value of $20 million.
Emergency services such as ACT Policing facilitate protests without charge as part of their public functions. However the requirement for a traffic management plan means that protestors have to pay third party traffic controllers to marshall the protests even if police are already present and conducting their own traffic control. These costs can be expensive for individual or community protest organisers and may constitute a barrier to freedom of expression and assembly.
The Greens want the Government to develop a system that covers costs for traffic management so that notified protests can be facilitated safely and without imposing significant costs on people that are exercising their democratic rights.
The costs of $20 million public liability insurance coverage can be far too high for very many small community organisations, meaning that they are simply not able to book some ACT Government venues, or undertake sometimes very low risk activities on ACT Government land. The Greens want the ACT Government to investigate how to best cover insurance for activities of these organisations.
6. Procurement and investment reform
a. Procurement to audit supply chains for modern-day slavery, exploitation or trafficking
The Greens are concerned about the use of moden day slavery and/or human trafficking in ACT Government supply chains and want to eliminate these risks wherever possible. We want a procurement system where tenderers for major procurements provide detail about their supply chains and evidence of audits of their policies and systems to ensure that their goods or services are free of conditions that could give rise to conditions of exploitation and modern day slavery. The Greens want government consideration of the recommendations of the Sydney Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce and the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act in developing a framework for supply chain audits.
b. Review the Indigenous Procurement Policy and its application across Government agencies by 2022
Local First Nations businesses have told us that the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) needs review and there needs to be education across government about its operation and application. Too often local First Nations businesses are not prioritised, with bigger interstate companies winning tenders and contracts, even where there are qualified and competitive businesses operating locally. There have also been reports of non-indigenous businesses engaging First Nations people on a token basis for the purpose of accessing dedicated First Nations funding and contracts. There needs to be a review of the IPP, its interaction with the Secure Local Jobs code and education for Directorates about how to apply it fairly and in good faith.
c. Investigate expanding the Local Industry Participation Policy
Access to Government contracts is important for many Canberra businesses, including small and emerging businesses. The Government already has in place a Canberra Region Local Industry Participation Policy (LIPP) which benefits Canberra region businesses during procurement, while still achieving best value for money for Government. For example, local businesses get a small assessment weighting for larger contracts.
The Greens believe that the LIPP could potentially be expanded to keep more business in Canberra. In particular, the Greens want to see more small to medium scale procurements go to local businesses. We will investigate expanding the Local Industry Participation Policy, including:
- Collection of data on the impact of the LIPP to allow assessment of where it is working well and where it needs to be fine-tuned
- Exploring options for an assessment weighting for local businesses in smaller procurement. The Canberra Region Local Industry Participation Policy requires government to consider every opportunity for competitive local businesses, including Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) when awarding contracts. Businesses must in addition to LIPP requirements, complete and submit the relevant Labour Relations, Training and Workplace Equity (LRTWE) plan for work valued over $25,000, however smaller procurement is not currently covered by an assessment weighting. This is particularly important for smaller businesses who may not have the ability to scale up to compete for large tenders.
- Explore ways to encourage directorates to break procurement down into smaller elements. Where goods and services are released as a single very large tender, this may exclude smaller local businesses unable to deliver the whole job, but who would be highly-competitive at one part of the overall project.
d. Stronger ethical investment processes for ACT Government funds, including co-sponsoring resolutions
The ACT Government has substantial investments to help cover future superannuation liabilities. These funds are invested in Australian and global share markets. Since 2012, they have been guided by a Responsible Investment Policy which requires social, environmental and corporate governance factors to be considered in selecting the investment portfolio. This recognises that the ACT Government has strong policy interests in issues like climate change, and that the ACT Government’s investments should not run counter to these goals.
The Greens believe that, while the current Responsible Investment Policy is a good start, it is not as strongly aligned with the ACT Government’s policies in areas like environmental protection and social justice as it could be. For example, shareholder resolutions have become an important way for shareholders to pressure companies to take action on issues like climate change. While the ACT Government has a proxy voting advisor to help guide its response to these resolutions, the ACT Government is not actively engaged in helping to sponsor resolutions.
The Greens will strengthen the ACT Government’s ethical investment processes, including through active co-sponsoring of shareholder resolutions where this aligns with ACT Government policies.
e. Divert ACT Government business support funding away from the defence industry
The ACT Government provides substantial support for the ACT’s defence industry, including through:
- Its inclusion in the Priority Investment Program
- A Defence Industry Advisory Board and associated Defence Ambassadors
- Promotional and advocacy activities.
The ACT Greens believe that the ACT Government should not provide funding or support for this industry. The global defence industry is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and injuries every year, including civilians, as well as destruction of civilian infrastructure and institutions. For example, the products of one Canberra defence industry company have been associated with the civil war in Yemen. The ACT Greens will withdraw all ACT Government business support activities from the defence industry and divert the savings to other purposes.
f. Changing Government procurement to preference zero waste and recycled products
i. setting targets for recycled products (percentage of total spend)
ii. ensuring all paper products are made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials.
The Greens believe that as the largest employer in the Territory, the ACT Government has the purchasing power to drive shifts in the market for recycled products. The Greens want specific targets as a percentages of total spend to be set for Government purchasing, including that 100 percent of paper products are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials.
g. Support direct partnerships between our food producers, with use of CBR branding and labelling for local food and investigate minimum targets for Canberra region food in procurement
The Greens believe that more can be done to foster partnerships between government agencies providing food and local farmers and producers. The Greens want a concerted push to use CBR branding on local, sustainably produced food. The Greens will investigate minimum targets for procurement and sourcing of produce from the Canberra region through purchasing contracts for Government institutions, whether hospitals, schools or detention facilities.