• Subject Name : Law

Managing the Crisis Across Levels of Government

Introduction to The Territorial Impact of Covid-19

The representative and accountable government are one of the essential elements of government that can facilitate and alleviate and address all the issues which are even uncertain and unpredictable for the functioning of government like COVID-19 pandemic. As far as the nation of Australia is considered, the government is acting with accountability and representative form in decision-making to ensure the well-being and recovery of all the states and territories affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This present paper will analyse the role and significance of representative and responsible government particularly in the situation of any unpredictable crisis. The formation of the National Cabinet and its functioning is also analysed in-depth for a better understanding of the response of the government in this immediate crisis. the transparency and accountability of the executive in decision making during this period is further analysed to understand if there are needs of accountability and transparency reforms in the nation of Australia amid the outbreak of a deadly virus. Eventually, the paper will provide an overview of the functioning of the Government of Australia from the perspectives of the representative and responsible government taking various crucial decisions for the physical well-being and safety of the nation with the various concern and issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representative and Responsible Government

The representative and responsible government is a political system based on the philosophy of Westminster system where a group of parliamentarians from the executive government by occupying the majority of support in the house of representatives and lower house of parliament resulting into dominance in the houses. A government with the basis of representation and responsibility considers playing a significant role in the development and better organisation of the modern democracy of the nation. The actual presumption has been to involve both these pillars and develop a government which is representing the people and is responsible as well and this desirability is the basis for the political party in a democratic form of government[1]. the accountability of the responsible government is towards the parliament for the different activities which has been conducted and also for the different actions that are an integral part of the activities of different departments administered by the public service. The acceptance of taking the full responsibility for any decision that has been taken by the various
department of the minister is one of the parts of the responsible government termed as ministerial responsibility. Another such a component of responsible government can be provided with the regularization of rule of law in the nation[2]. this rule of law as provided for adhering to all the legal and judicial procedures which are integral part of the system of Australia. The decision-making procedure for creating new laws for amending any existing law must receive the approval of the parliament in a responsible government. The representation of the society having a root over the interest, demands, different political opinions of the civil society is enabled with this form of government. Ultimately the government organised their position and with different institution support and nurture the interest of both the supporters as well as the different communities of the society. A representative government provides for the election of the members of both the houses by the citizens of the states[3] only and the Commonwealth[4]. The legal impact of the responsible and representative government in Australia can be understood as a government which is responsible to the parliament rather than the head of the state[5]. As provided by Bardi et al[6]., the underlying ideology of this form of government is concern over the long-term needs of their people and community which should be catered and addressed in the nation and consider the demands of not only the electoral but the other people as well. Since the Government of the nation is composed of a House of Representative which has 151 members, elected from the different regions and geographical areas of nation, the form of government of Australia is referred as a representative government. The tenure of these elected members is for a period of three years and have the obligation to represent the opinions and different ideas of the masses home they are representing in the house.

Establishment of National Cabinet and Impact of Its Operation

The National Cabinet, composed of prime minister and other ministers including the chief ministers of all the territories and states of the nation, is established on 13 March 2020.The members are appointed by the governor general on the advice the prime minister who has been serving at the pleasure of the prime minister only. It is formed to meet the requirements emerged as a result of the outbreak of pandemic of COVID 19 as the regular administrative measures that were already in place were not adequate to tackle the issue. The cabinet was formed with an immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic decided by the prime minister of Australia Scott Morrison by replacing the council of Australian governments[7]. The cabinet has provided a suppression strategy to tackle the outbreak of deadly virus till any effective vaccine or treatment is available in the nation with the goal of prevention of the local transmission of this virus[8]. Even the National Cabinet has acted as an immediate response to the covid-19 and the make which turned out to be a severe health crisis of the world which cannot be tackled and control through the administration and efforts of COAG. There are also debates about the efficiency of the National Cabinet in its function which has been expected by the Commonwealth and the States. There are disagreements over the delivery of outcomes by the cabinet with respect to different aspects of the governmental functions like recovery of the economy[9] and schooling of the children. The national cabinet has, to a great extent, provided efficiency to the government by overcoming these problems. The purpose of creating this particular cabinet was to meet the health crisis that has been a result of covid-19 and even to continue the process further. Although, it is notable that once this pandemic is over, the previous model of administration will be restored in order to have the representative and responsible government structure and there will be an enhance in the demand of the government departments to get back to their previous role in the governance system of Australia.

Accountability and Transparency in Decision Making of The Executive in Present Time

The accountable and representative decision-making suggest a form of Government taking decisions on the behalf of the citizens in order to ensure that their demands and concern can be address at the government level with the assurance of democratic form of government flourishing in the nation[10]. The Australian governance structure requires the reforms in accountability concerning the modern governance arrangement with respect to the existence and the establishment of the National Cabinet which has been constituted particularly to address the issue of global pandemic of COVID-19. The initiative of the Australian government to introduce a National Cabinet in order to facilitate the address of economic and health issue that has been emerged and affecting the nation due to COVID-19 crisis can be put forward as one of the significant accountable and representative decision makings that have been made by the nation amid the pandemic[11]. The criteria of getting advised by the Australian health protection principal committee which is actually a parallel group with the all state and territory chief health officers and chairman by the national Australian chief medical officer as their members reflects the accountability of the Government and the inclusion of all the states and territories in the decision-making process to develop a resolution for meeting the immediate issue of COVID-19 prices and the recovery thereafter. Moreover, the National Cabinet has been bringing together the first ministers of each Australian state and the territories along with the prime minister which clearly suggest the unity and uniform decision-making process without leaving the opinions of the representatives of any state or territory of the nation. The complex nature of accountability structure which has been in function in Australia in the particular moment is a matter of concern for various governance and legal experts along with the academicians. The consideration is regarding the all aspects of horizontal and vertical relationship which is existing between the government and the public servant[12]. the same has been existing between the people of all the territories and regions of the nation and the parliament of Australia. The existence of the features of good accountability practices on the fundamental basis that has resulted in the setting of public administration of the nation cannot be ignored in spite of all the above-mentioned factors. although it is also noticeable that to the notion of accountability has enhanced in the region of the nation from great margin amid the pandemic.

Analysis of Accountability and Transparency Reforms Needed in Nation

The government has provided real-time, transparent protocols for all the mechanism and the consistent approach that has been chosen and applied for containment and preparing for the coronavirus and the recovery of the same[13]. The Council of Australian Government (COAG) is the intergovernmental forum which is responsible for the management of all the national significant matters that has been held including the response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the year 2020. The COAG has even considered the advice of AHPCC to provide the status of advice of COAG in order to ensure the proper management of different issues like mass gatherings, School closures, remote communities and public transport-related decisions and protocols that have to be implemented in the state and the territories

On the other hand, there are various opinions over the formation of the National Cabinet. It has been opined that the inclusion of the National Cabinet in the committee of the federal cabinet is likely to reduce the transparency of the government with respect to the decision-making process. The other opinions do support the Australian government initiative to have such cabinet for fighting the COVID-19 crisis and provides that it is not possible for a government in the time of crisis to satisfy all the different aspects of the democratic form of government[14]. The different aspects and opinions have provided that there is a need for accountability and transparency reform in the Australian government with respect to the COVID-19 response as well. The National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board lacks the independent appointments and a legislative underpinning which are supposed to be an expected factor of any publicly funded agency such as NCC[15]. As provided by the government, the establishment of NCC had not been done via legislation which further raises questions over the obligation that has to be fulfilled by the commission accordingly. Even the composition of the NCC has invited many opinions concerning the conflict of interest too. The issue of transparency has been encountered by NCC as well. The denial of the committee over the publication of conflict of interest stating it be sensitive personal information is also leading to various criticisms as NCC is also the subject to the freedom of information resign and thus sharing of information is a vital beauty of the cabinet.

Conclusion on The Territorial Impact of Covid-19

It is conclusive in this paper with the analysis of accountability and representative form of government in Australia where the government have been taking various initiatives to ensure the stability of functioning of various departments of society even in this unpredictable situation of COVID-19. An accountable and representative government is considered to be the building block of democracy particularly in a nation like Australia where there are various states and territories. The significance of such form of Government and such accountable and representative decision-making cannot be overlooked as it is mandatory to cope up with the pandemic like COVID-19 which have not only affected one nation but has changed the economical and other aspects of various other nations of the globe. The government has come up with the National Cabinet which is ensuring the public healthcare and other facilities that have been affected and need urgent attention of the government. although there are various opinions were the functioning and transparency of the National Cabinet, yet the vitality of this cabinet cannot be ignored as it has been effectively observing and analysing the whole situation of COVID-19 to ensure that any economic or other issues can be addressed immediately by the government without affecting the rights and duties of the citizens.

References for The Territorial Impact of Covid-19

[1] Mair Peter, Representative Government vs. Responsible Government. Revue internationale de politique comparée, (2011) 18(2) 149-164, < https://doi.org/10.3917/ripc.182.0149>.

[2] Waldron, Jeremy, ‘The Rule of Law’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2020/entries/rule-of-law/>.

[3] Australian Constitution s 7

[4] Australian Constitution s24; Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997) 189 CLR 520.

[5] Constitution Education Fund, The rule of law during the coronavirus pandemic, (2020), < http://www.cefa.org.au/ccf/rule-law-during-coronavirus-pandemic>

[6] Luciano Bardi, Stefano Bartolini and Alexander H. Trechsel, ‘Responsive and responsible?’ The role of parties in twenty-first century politics, (2014), West European Politics 37(2) 235–252.

[7] The Guardian, National Cabinet secrecy under fire in first-of-its-kind challenge to new arrangement, (2020), <https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/aug/19/national-cabinet-secrecy-under-fire-in-first-of-its-kind-challenge-to-new-arrangement>.

[8] Prime Minister of Australia, Media statement, (2020), <https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-cabinet-24jul20>.

[9] The Conversation, Federal government fires a shot ahead of National Cabinet discussing border war, (2020),< https://theconversation.com/federal-government-fires-a-shot-ahead-of-national-cabinet-discussing-border-wars-144816>

[10] Helena Bjuremalm and Sarah Polek, How does accountability affect representation?, (2016). <https://www.idea.int/news-media/news/how-does-accountability-affect-representation>

[11] OECD, The territorial impact of COVID-19: Managing the crisis across levels of government, (2020), http://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/the-territorial-impact-of-COVID-19-managing-the-crisis-across-levels-of-government-d3e314e1/

[12] Valeriya Mechkova, Anna Lührmann and Staffan I. Lindberg, ‘The Accountability Sequence: from De-Jure to De-Facto Constraints on Governments’. (2019) 54 St Comp Int Dev, 40–70, <https://doi.org/10.1007/s12116-018-9262-5?>.

[13] Parliament of Australia, Australian COVID-19 response management arrangements: a quick guide, (2020), <https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1920/Quick_Guides/AustralianCOVID-19ResponseManagement#_Toc38973752>.

[14] The Guardian, Transparency around government decision-making is another casualty of COVID-19, (2020), <https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/06/transparency-around-government-decision-making-is-another-casualty-of-COVID-19->

[15] Hicks, E, “Private Actors and crisis”, (2020) Scrutinising the National COVID 19 Commission Advisory Board <https://government.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/3457725/GDC-Policy-Brief-4_Private-Actors-and-Crisis_final.pdf>.

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