Letter to the editor: Scrutiny needed over decisions
16 April 2020
Anyone who enters Victoria’s Parliament House is greeted by a quote from Proverbs, inscribed into the floor of the foyer: “Where no counsel is the people fall but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety”.
The principle is a simple one: democracy is threatened if one person or a small group of people take control without any oversight.
On Thursday (Editor’s note: April 23) the Victorian Parliament will return for just a few hours to pass urgent legislation to keep our communities running. The date it will return is at this stage unknown.
With a State of Emergency in place until May 11, decision-making is now concentrated in the hands of the Premier and small handful of people who now wield extraordinary power.
Never before has a state government had so much power over the lives of Victorians.
My role as a Member of Parliament is to make sure your voice is heard and that the decisions that are made do not adversely impact our region.
All of us recognise that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, however the people’s ability to have oversight of this power is still critically important. That is the role, and the function of Parliament.
It is for the same reason that I am pushing for changes this week to the Local Government Act to allow councils to hold their meetings via video teleconference, instead of face-to-face.
Without the Andrews Government’s support for this change, councils won’t be able to meet to make decisions. Some, in fact, have already decided to delegate all their decision-making powers to their council CEO because they feel they have no other choice.
We will also seek support for a joint house committee of Parliament to be established to oversight government decision-making, as has been done in New Zealand and in Canberra.
Through these extraordinary times, we need now more than ever to defend the democratic structures which ensure the people’s voice is not lost.
There must be checks and balances in place to ensure all levels of government remain accountable to the public.
Steph Ryan MP
Member for Euroa
Deputy Leader of The Nationals