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 Political Minds Gather for Queensland Upper House Debate

 

   
Conference invited speakers and attendees from left; David Phillips, Nick Aroney, Kevin Martin, Scott Prasser, Janet Ransley, Reid Mortensen and Bruce Stone
Conference invited speakers and attendees from left; David Phillips, Nick Aroney, Kevin Martin, Scott Prasser, Janet Ransley, Reid Mortensen and Bruce Stone

Politicians from across the country converged on Queensland to join local academics and legal practitioners at the Improving Government Accountability in Queensland: the Upper House Solution? Conference on April 21.

The conference featured an impressive array of political and academic speakers who argued on both sides whether Queensland would be better served by implementing an upper house of parliament, in line with all other Australian states.

The conference was the brainchild of Dr Nicholas Aroney from the Centre for Public, International and Comparative Law and Dr Scott Prasser from the Faculty of Business as the University of the Sunshine Coast. It was hosted by the TC Beirne School of Law, The University of Queensland.

The conference drew an impressive turnout of Queensland and interstate delegates. Representatives of all major political parties were present, including Labor, the Liberals, the Democrats, the Greens and Family First.

TC Beirne Law School Staff, Jonathan Crowe, Darryn Jensen and Jim Allan discuss the finer points of the morning sessions.
TC Beirne Law School Staff, Jonathan Crowe, Darryn Jensen and Jim Allan discuss the finer points of the morning sessions.

   

Politicians from legislative councils as close as Canberra and as distant as Western Australia and Tasmania travelled to Queensland to attend the conference.

The conference was opened by TC Beirne School of Law Head of School, Professor Charles Rickett, who welcomed all to the conference. “We are looking forward to a very worthwhile debate and thinking and discussion about this important issue,” he said, highlighting the ongoing nature of the debate.

The Honourable Bill Hayden, former Governor General of Australia, opened the conference. He argued in favour of an upper house to improve government accountability.

“I hope a momentum will develop from this conference which brings about the establishment of an upper house in Queensland,” he said. “And in doing so, make governments more accountable, as we’ve seen with the Senate on a range of major issues of concern … such as the dubious conduct of some of our intelligence assessment agencies in respect of Iraq.”

Mr Hayden also discussed the possibility of a Bill of Rights. “Do we need a Bill of Rights? I long thought not,” he said. However the introduction of mandatory sentencing in some Australian states had changed his position. Mr Hayden cited the introduction of mandatory sentencing in Western Australia by Labor as a “continuing embarrassment.”

   
Former Senator Meg Lees enjoying a discussion with Ian Gittus from the Greens Party
Former Senator Meg Lees enjoying a discussion with Ian Gittus from the Greens Party

Other speakers at the conference included former leader of the Australian Democrats Meg Lees, who gave the delegates an insight into Senate processes.

Prominent Brisbane solicitor and civil liberties advocate Mr Terry O’Gorman spoke about the related issue of the passing of legislation which gave broader powers to governments, particularly in the areas of police powers.

Delegates enjoyed a full day of presentations which was followed by an evening of drinks at the offices of Minter Ellison Lawyers.

The conference papers will soon be available in a book. For more information please contact Dr Nicholas Aroney, n.aroney@law.uq.edu.au or Dr Scott Prasser, scottprasser@optusnet.com.au