Episode 30 19 August 2021
Democracy - written and unwritten rules
Principal lawyer, Geraldine Grace | Host, New Earth lawyer podcast
I relate my experiences in dream state working on the latest stage of the transformational awakening we're experiencing as a collective.
Then I explain the way democracy works in the Westminster system, which is the system that prevails in Australia, adopted from the UK. Some of these rules serve us well but others - especially the unwritten conventions that allows political parties to dominate government - do not.
As we begin transforming our systems, it's time to think about what we want to keep and what we wish to discard.
I am an experienced corporate lawyer, using the law to build purposeful, human-centred, Earth-friendly legal enterprises & ecosystems, for happier humans and a better planet.
I am also the founder and host of the New Earth lawyer podcast.
I am based in Melbourne, Australia, and an expert in enterprise governance, purpose, business & human rights and modern slavery. I established my own law practice Geraldine Grace in 2020, focussing on enterprises seeking purpose, and actors in the impact economy.
I am a legal advisor to not-for-profits with a national reach in impact and purpose. I work with Boards to optimise performance and help enterprises embed purpose and integrate human rights into their business.
I have over 20 years' experience practising law in Australia, the UK, Hong Kong and mainland China. I have worked for large global and Australian law firms and was a partner of a top-tier Australian law firm for several years.
I sit on the peak governing body of Australia's largest university.
[1:26] I discuss a recent dream I had about the huge number of highly advanced souls who are preparing to walk in or drop in to this planet
[5:03] The changes in our political systems will begin to show up in physical terms from now on and will be different for each country.
[5:37] In Australia, we have a system of democracy based on the separation of powers - that the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary are separate arms of government so that power is not centralised in one place.
[7:40] In the Westminster system, Parliament makes the laws and is comprised of two Houses - the Lower House that represents the people and the Upper House that reviews and approves laws. In Australia the Queen is part of Parliament. To be passed, laws have to be approved by both Houses and assented to by the Governor-General who is the Queen's representative in Australia.
[9:35] Parliamentarians are directly elected by the people, a concept known as representative democracy which is written into our Constitution.
[10:32] Australian democracy also relies on the unwritten rule of responsible government. One part of this is that the Executive (the Prime Minister, Cabinet and government departments) must be responsible to the Lower House of Parliament, which in practice means the political party that holds the majority of seats in the House of Representatives forms government.
[12:07] Another part of responsible government limits the powers of the Queen's representative, the Governor-General who in exercising many of his or her powers, relies on the advice of the Prime Minister.
[13:23] Our State governments largely follow the same conventions in how governments are formed.
[14:13] By placing so much power in the hands of the ruling political party, the conventions of responsible government can override the effectiveness of representative democracy as Parliamentarians become accustomed to adopting the party line, instead of representing their constituents.
[15:45] Members of Parliament have a duty of public trust, to supervise and hold accountable the Executive on behalf of the electorate, but this doesn't happen within the same political party,
[16:37] Although most Senates in Australia are not dominated by the ruling political party, they are fragmented and there is often a balance of power held by a handful of minor parties or independents which still allows the government to get laws passed by negotiating with these few Parliamentarians.
[17:42] The end result is that our views as the electorate are seldom heard directly and we feel frustrated when we want to express them although we live in a democracy. What can we do to improve the system?
The Australian Constitution.
The Australian Federal Parliament's information sheet on separation of powers.
An essay about representative democracy and the importance of the Australian senate by Elaine Thompson.
The Australian Parliamentary Education Office fact sheet on forming government.
Horne v Barber, (1920) 27 CLR 494 where the Australian High Court held that Parliamentarians have a duty of public trust and that a contract to interfere with that duty was void for being contrary to public policy.
Hi, everyone, my name is Geraldine Johns-Putra. And this is the New Earth lawyer podcast. I woke up this morning and I had a thought about what I wanted to speak to you about today, I had this whole thing planned out to talk to you about the concept of democracy, the legal system, the political system around democracy. And then I woke up this morning, and I felt like I had to say something else.
And really why I feel that I have to do that is because many of you would be aware that there's this massive change happening right now. And that we are in the month of August and August is a very active month for energetic changes. And I've been feeling this too, I've been feeling like it's a time to kind of sit back and be prepared, but at the same time to keep an eye out on on what's happening without getting too enmeshed in it.
I don't know if many of you follow the work of Jason Estes, or Franco de Nicola. They're two people I follow a reasonable amount, Jason not so much, Franco a lot more. But they've been talking about this concept of walk-ins, this idea that a huge number of souls, highly advanced souls, are going to walk in to this planet, they're going to drop in to this planet using the physical vessels that are already here, either physical vessels that are being occupied by souls who no longer wish to continue because they're done with the journey on Earth, or physical vessels that aren't actually occupied by a one soul that we know, like the backdrop people or the extras who are basically running on autopilot. So in both of these types of walk-ins, a mass number of highly advanced souls are going to come in and help us move this awakening along. I think it was Jason Estes, who said the 15th of August was going to be a really important date for that to happen, that to start happening. On the 15th of August, I had a dream, where I was involved in processing a large number of these souls coming in. It was like they were coming in on a 747 aircraft and there was a group of them that I was responsible for. And I had to find new identities for them and take them to a specific area to be processed separately. So I was responsible for this group. Now, I'm sure they have already sorted out their identities, but in my dream, that's what I was helping them to do. They were, the whole group were coming to walk in, the whole plane load, but my group was a specific set for a specific mission.
And since that, night, a few nights ago, it was just a handful of nights ago, earlier this week, every night, I've been in dream state, working with these souls, on different scenarios, different scenarios of disclosure particularly, very active, very involved work, and in different countries. I can't really remember the specifics of it. But in each night that I have a dream, we go through different scenes. So we go through different simulations of the same thing. So in dream state, I feel like I'm working really intensely with a group.
So that's what when I woke up this morning, I thought, well, I'm due to come on and talk to you all. I could talk about democracy, which I will do a little bit. But I also felt like I needed to tell you what I'm experiencing right now in real time because we're ramping up and we're going to start making changes in the actual physical world. So that's the short update of my dream activity.
And so what I wanted to do is to tell you a little bit about what I was originally going to tell you about - democracy. But I want, I would hope that anyone watching this, bears in mind that, you know, we're talking about a system that we are going to change, we - it is in flux now, and the ramp-up to change is going to accelerate from now on, and we're actually going to be seeing it all around the world, you know, governments changing and so on.
It's going to be different in each country, I here am in Australia. So whatever folds and unfolds in Australia is going to be different from the next country as to how the changes take place. But, you know, just quickly on to democracy, you know, we here in Australia, say that we live in a democracy, it's a system that's adopted from the UK system, or Westminster system. We talk about the separation of powers in a democracy, which is a good thing. The separation of powers is a great concept. It's the separation of government powers, so that not all of the power is centralised in one place. So the government powers of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, are the three powers of government and they're kept separate, so that they keep an eye on each other. That's what we call checks and balances.
In Australia, that system is very clearly set out in our Constitution, because our Constitution has these three parts of government set out in different chapters. So Parliament, or the Legislature makes the laws. The Executive, which in the Australian system is our Prime Minister, a Cabinet, and the government departments, it carries out the laws, administers. And then we have the Judiciary or the Courts, which interprets the laws. And so each of those are supposed to keep an eye on each other, you know, the Courts keep an eye on the laws made by Parliament, make sure that they they lawfully made and and are lawful in themselves, keeps an eye on the - courts keep an eye on Executive powers and a Parliament is supposed to ensure that government does, the Executive government does the right thing and so on and so forth.
In Australia, under our Constitution, our Australian Parliament actually comprises two houses, which is the Upper House called the Senate, and the Lower House called the House of Representatives, and the Queen. The Queen of England is actually part of our Australian Parliament. I won't talk about that today. But that's an important point for any Australians here to remember - the Queen's part of our parliament. So the Lower House or the House of Representatives, that's traditionally supposed to represent their people. That's why we call it the House of Representatives.
You see this more clearly in the UK, where, you know, their Lower House is truly elected. And then they have the House of Lords, which is the upper house, which is the peerage. And now that's where all the nobility traditionally sit. Our Upper House is called a Senate, and its job traditionally is to approve the laws. So what happens is a Bill or a new law that's been proposed comes into Parliament. Normally it comes into the Lower House, it's introduced by the Executive, one of the Ministers. And then it goes into, it gets presented to the Lower House. It gets debated, and then passed by the Lower House and then it goes up to the Senate. And it gets debated there. And then the Senate might request amendments or not. And then if the Senate passes it, after that, it has to be assented to by our Governor-General who is the representative of the Queen. So remember, I said the Queen's part of Parliament. So a law doesn't become a law in Australia until it's been through all of that process.
And that's at the Federal level. So that's that's how our laws are supposedly representative of we the people in Australia because we elected the Parliament. And that concept, the election of Parliament is called representative democracy. And that's in our Constitution. That's written in our Constitution, because our Constitution says that Parliamentarians must be directly chosen by the people, and they have to have limited terms of service. So, so far, so good, okay. This is how it's all supposed to work when, when it's working. And this is how it's set out in our Constitution. I don't have an issue with any of that this idea that we directly let the Parliamentarians and then the Parliamentarians have this process of how laws are supposed to be passed.
Now, there's something else that our democracy relies upon, in Australia to function. And that's not written in the Constitution. It's called responsible government. Responsible government. Now there are few, there are a few angles to it, a few parts to it. The first is that under the umbrella of responsible government, the Executive, which is like I said, our Prime Minister, his or her Cabinet, and the government departments, that's what they are, in practice, the Executive must be responsible to Parliament, and must obtain and maintain the confidence of the Lower House, the House of Representatives, the House that's traditionally the elected House. So in theory, it's supposed to mean that the Executive arm of government is accountable to the electorate. This isn't written anywhere in the Constitution. In practice, what it means is that the political party that controls the Lower House will form the government. That's what responsible government translates to, that the party that controls the House of Representatives, will, the leader of that party will become the Prime Minister, and will form government.
So the unwritten rules also have another function, and they limit the actions of our Governor-General. Remember that the Governor General is the rep of the Queen. So it's actually a check on monarchy. Because under Australia's Constitution, what's written down in it, who is the Executive government? The Executive government is the Queen. And her power, her Executive power is exercisable by her rep, the Governor-General. That's what's written down. But in practice, thanks to the concept of responsible government, the Governor-General is just a figurehead. So for example, he or she has the power to appoint and dismiss Ministers. But in actual fact, what happens is he or she acts on the advice of the Prime Minister who's the leader of the political party that controls the Lower House. And then also, of course, the leader of the political party, under this unwritten rule becomes the Prime Minister. And by the way, the words Prime Minister don't appear at all in our Constitution. Okay, so that's just the creature of convention, that we have a Prime Minister.
So to a large degree, what happens in each state in Australia is pretty much reflective of what I've just described, right? The leader of each State in Australia, we call Premiers, his or her Ministers, they're all appointed by the same convention. Except I should say, in Queensland, they only have one house of Parliament. But it all comes down to, whoever has the power in that State comes down to, who controls the Lower House, or in Queensland, who controls that one House of Parliament.
So these are the written and unwritten rules that basically form our democracy. There is another important part, and that is that the Judiciary, we have a Judiciary and rule of law in Australia, but I won't go into that, I'm focusing on the political electoral system.
Why does it sometimes feel like even if we have these unwritten and written rules, why does it feel like we don't have many rights at all in Australia as citizens to ensure that our government whom we elected act in our interest? Well, the biggest culprit is this idea of responsible government, right? In my humble opinion, because the, because of the control and domination it gives to the political party that is in power, because they control the Lower House and they form the Executive government. Political parties aren't a part of our Constitution. They're not written into our Constitution and for many lawmakers what we see. Parliamentarians, we see them adopt the party line when it comes to how to vote in Parliament. Rather than thinking about what the people who elected them really want, their constituents back in their local electorate. They are supposed to owe a duty of public trust to the people who elected them. There's an old High Court case from 1920, so more than 100 years old, that says that these duties include "watching the conduct of the Executive on behalf of the general community, and criticising and if necessary, calling it to account in the constitutional way by censure from his place in Parliament."
How often do we see, do we see Members of Parliament criticising the Executive, a Prime Minister or the Premier, the Ministers and so on, if they're all from the same party? Doesn't happen very often. So the idea of representative democracy becomes overruled by party politics. And this brings us to our second problem when it comes to passing laws, laws that are passed for us, the people on our behalf. The Executive because it controls the Lower House dominates. So it's usually in charge of, of introducing laws to be passed. And it also controls the timetable of Parliament and it influences how much debate is actually conducted over the new laws, the proposed laws or the Bills.
Yes, in Australia and most States we have Upper Houses or Senates that aren't necessarily controlled by the same political party that controls the Lower House. And that gives us one form of check and balance because the law still has to be passed not just by the Lower House that's dominated by the political party in power, it has to be passed, approved by the Upper House. And often the Upper House isn't controlled by the same political party. But we have a very fragmented nature in most of our Senates and what tends to happen is that a lot of minor parties have Senators, and many of these minor parties or independents actually control what we call the balance of power. Because by voting with the government, by voting with the political party in power, they can actually make sure that the laws get passed, and the laws then become assented to by the Governor or the Governor General, and become our laws.
So there's a lot that ends up in the hands of the political party in charge. And their policies get written by bureaucrats and you know, eventually become our laws. Their leader who's elected, not directly by the people, but by the party room becomes the leader of the State or the leader of the country. And so while we go about our business and assume that everything's fine, everything's being run capably by the politicians and the bureaucrats, when something really strikes us as going not the way we want it to, when we want to voice our views, we find all of a sudden, we have a limited way of doing that. And so I wanted to introduce this whole idea of democracy. And next week, I'm going to talk about what we can actually do about it. As a lawyer, I'm going to talk in legal terms about it.
But I wanted us to start thinking about as we go through this massive state of flux, and know that we have the ability to change things powerfully, what does democracy mean? What's not so right with our current systems, what's right and what's not so right, and how would we like to see change happen? So that's it from me this week. From now on, I'm going to be a lot more current telling you what's going on in my life, in the work that I'm doing, while continually updating you on legal stuff that I'm guided to. So have a great week and I'll see you soon.