House debates

Thursday, 23 March 2023


Ministers of State Amendment Bill 2022; Second Reading

10:04 am

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | Hansard source

Members of parliament—you're right—swear allegiance to the Crown. We should be swearing allegiance to the Australian people who elected us, but we don't have the opportunity to do that. In my view, if we had an Australian head of state that was appointed by the Australian people, either through the parliamentary process or directly elected by the Australian people, they would have an obligation to the Australian people to ensure that the fundamental principle of democracy is upheld—the right to know who is administering government on their behalf. In such a scenario, if the Prime Minister were say to the Australian head of state, 'I want you to swear me in to these ministries,' the head of state would of course be obliged to do so; however, having been appointed by the Australian people, I believe they would also be obliged to say, 'If you don't tell the Australian people, I will.'

That is another reason why, after we get through the process of looking at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, which is the priority of the government this year, we need to begin a serious discussion with the Australian people about, in the future, debating whether or not we should have one of our own as our head of state, someone who is accountable to the Australian people and who represents Australia's unique culture and identity, improving the system of democracy that we have and cherish in Australia. Hopefully, some good can come of this dark period in our history when the Australian people were left none the wiser about who was administering government on their behalf, because of that dastardly act of the former Prime Minister to attempt to cover up—and that's implicit in the fact that he didn't tell anyone—the fact that he'd taken the ministries of other ministers, attempting to hide it from the Australian people.

Thankfully, we now have a government that prioritises transparency and accountability. This bill delivers on the commitment to ensure that we have transparency and accountability in our decision-making, particularly when it comes to who is administering government on behalf of the Australian people. In the future, because of this reform, the Australian people will always know who has been sworn in as a minister of state and who is administering government departments on their behalf.


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