Quotes and Examples – Accountability and Governance

Richard McGarvie

A GG should be entirely above partisan politics and exerts an unifying influence.

John Faulkner, Senator

Best accountability mechanism of any Australian parliament (Estimates committees)

Richard Mulgan

It is widely accepted that these crucial doctrines have never operated as a means of ensuring that Ministers are held responsible for their actions. (IMR and CMR)

David Lovell

As long as the governing party holds its majority, the government and its Ministers are more accountable to their party than to the Parliament

Harry Evans

A black hole of the core executive into which responsibility disappears (Political advisers)


The principle means whereby the Senate obtains information bearing on the accountability of the executive are committee inquiries

Brennan CJ

The duties of the judiciary are not owed to the electorate, they are owed to the law

Gareth Evans (AG during Hawke/Keating)

The standards we require of our judiciary are higher than might be reasonable to require of anyone else

Kirby J

A judge is answerable only to their conscience

Gleeson CJ

Exceptional level of quality with regards to its complaint handling process and holding judicial officials to account (NSW Judicial Commission)

Democratic principles

Popular participation
  • Rowe v Electoral Commissioner 2010 – voting enrolment
  • Roach v Electoral Commissioner 2007 – franchise of prisoners
  • Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006
Judicial independence
  • Anti-bikie laws
Natural justice
  • Dietrich v the Queen 1992 – legal representation

Accountability of the Governor-General

  • 1975 dismissal of Gough Whitlam
  • 2001 – Hollingworth
  • 2003 – resignation of Hollingworth due to public pressure

Accountability of Parliament

Privileges committee
  • Parliamentary Privilege Act 1987 – abuse of privilege by Heffernan/Xenophon
  • Privileges and Members’ Interests Committee – current investigating Craig Thomson (Dobell), chaired by Russell Broadbent

Right of reply:

  • 2008 – Professor David Flint applied (and received leave) to respond to comments made about him by Lindsay Tanner MP in 2006 regarding unsubstantiated allegations the Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy engaged in tax fraud.
Standing orders
  • Made under s 50 of Constitution
  • Limited effectiveness if speaker is biased.
  • Bronwyn Bishop’s record is 190:4
Judicial review
  • Australian Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950
  • Australian Communist Party v Commonwealth 1951
Political party
  • The ALP Pledge
  • Crossing the floor: Malcolm Turnbull on ETS, Sharman Stone 2013 on Murray-Darling River

Accountability of the Executive


  • Joel Fitzgibbon, Defence Minister, 2009
  • Arthur Sinodinos, Assistant Treasurer, 2014
  • Bronwyn Bishop, Minister for Aged Care, 2000 – Kerosene scandal
  • Peter Garrett, Environment Minister, 2009 – Home Insulation Scheme


  • Stewart West 1984
  • Gary Punch 1988
Parliamentary procedures
  • Gags and guillotines used to avoid scrutiny – 216 used in 43rd Parliament


Estimates Committees:
  • Sports Rort/Whiteboard Affair – 1994 – Ros Kelly
  • The Estimates Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade is chaired by Chris Back
Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit
  • Chair: Andrew Southcott
  • Australian National Audit Office, Auditor General Ian McPhee
  • Auditor General Act 1997
  • Currently undertaking performance audit of the AEC
  • Select committee on a certain maritime incident (children overboard) 2002
Westminster Chain of Responsibility
  • 1999 John Moore (Defence Minister) sacked Paul Barratt over a dispute with the Collins Class Submarines
  • Public Service Act 1997
  • Peta Credlin (Tony Abbott)
  • Alistair Furnival (Fiona Nash)

Judicial review

  • Pape v Commissioner of Taxation 2009
  • Williams v Commonwealth 2012

Royal Commissions

  • 132 Royal Commissions since Federation
  • Royal Commissions Act 1902
  • Currently 3 happening – into the Home Insulation Scheme, into union corruption, into institutional child abuse
  • Cole Inquiry 2005 – Howard, Downer and Vaile limited the terms of reference
  • Australian Wheat Board/Food-for-Oil programme
Other integrity agencies
  • Commonwealth Ombudsman Act 1976
  • Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975

Accountability of the courts

For accountability through appeals and interactions with Parliament, see COURTS pages.

Transparent processes

Media scrutiny in:

  • M70 v Immigration Minister 2011
  • WA v Rayney 2012

Censure of judicial officials

Breaking the law:
  • Chief Magistrate Murray Farquhar (NSW) – R v Farquhar 1985.
  • Justice Einfield of the SC and FC in NSW over $77 speeding fine
Appointment of officials:
  • Barwick and Murphy
  • 2014 Timothy Carmody, now CJ of the QLD SC – supports Cameron Newman and Jarrod Bleijie
Removal of officials:
  • Angelo Vasta (SC) 1989. Forced to resign by QLD Parl over corruption allegations in the Fitzgerald Commission
  • 1998 Vince Bruce, was asked to address NSW Parl over excessive delays in judgements. Was not forced to resign, but retired shortly after.
  • Note Murphy J was the subject of an Parliamentary Commission in 1985 following failed convictions but died before it occurred
Judicial supervision:

1986 – NSW Judicial Commission

2002 – Establishment of the National Judicial College

2012 – Judicial Complaints Act; Parliamentary Commission Act


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