After a British think tank suggested that former government ministers should be held responsible for their failed policies, there have been calls for Australia to follow suit.
On Monday, The Telegraph revealed a report compiled by the Institute for Government in the UK, which recommended that ex-ministers should be forced to answer for their mistakes in front of Parliamentary committees, even if they have since left politics.
“Parliamentary select committees should recall ministers who have subsequently left post to answer questions about the decisions made during the inception of a project,” the report, titled Accountability in modern government – recommendations for change, read. “Especially where subsequent underperformance or failures have resulted in harm to the public.”
Now, Starts at 60 readers have debated whether a similar policy should be considered in Australia, with a majority agreeing that former ministers should be held to account for policies they promised the public that did not come into fruition.
According to an online poll of readers, seven times as many people think pollies should be held accountable for failed policies, compared to those who believe it would be a waste of time and money to do so.
Community blogger Barbara Easthope told us she would love to see politicians being made to account for “broken election promises” but questioned how you would define what constitutes as a bad, or failed, policy. She said: “I’d love to see politician’s prosecuted for false advertising with broken election promises. [But] How do you define bad policy? It depends on your outlook – after all an increase in tax can be viewed by some as bad, but to those who benefit from the increase in services, great.
“Some policies like removing children from aboriginal communities or shipping them away from the UK were only really understood to be outstanding failures many years down the track when all the information about abuse and the trauma of separation from family was understood.”
While another reader, Denise O’Keeffe, agreed with Barbara’s comments and questioned why Australia can’t follow suit with a report of its own, following the release of the IG’s publication in the UK.
However, not everyone agreed that it would be a good idea, as blogger Rod Faithfull raised the issue of whether one individual could fairly be held responsible for a failed party policy.
“What people have to remember is that one person may stand for election on a raft of policies that he/she would like to see implemented,” he said. “In so doing their election spiel includes what they intend to push for if elected to represent their electorate. Good intentions designed to win votes are not necessarily promises.
“Even if elected this person is a small cog in a very big wheel. Party members who win the support and confidence of their party over a number of years may become parliamentary ministers. Even then they remain as one voice in forming party policy. I don’t think one person can be held accountable for failed party policy.”
While another, in agreement with Rod, wrote: “Decisions are made with the best information available at the time. Some will fail but you can’t punish politicians for that.”