Pink Batts Royal Commission “crumbling” democracy?

The Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program remained controversial this week, as former prime minister Kevin Rudd was called to give evidence. Although criminal prosecutions held the installation companies responsible for workers’ deaths, and the risk of fire fell under the program, the Abbott Government nevertheless established a royal commission to investigate whether the processes of government contributed to the problems. Controversially, cabinet documents were handed to the Commission, despite a convention that they be kept confidential for thirty years. The Government then tried to use cabinet confidentiality to censor Kevin Rudd’s evidence. The Australian’s legal affairs editor, Chris Merritt, suggests this marks a “turning point when some of the fundamental planks of the Australian system of government started to crumble.” He argues that the people delivered their verdict by electing a new government, and that is how Westminster accountability ought to work: “The existence of this royal commission implies that the Westminster method of accountability does not go far enough. The decision to call this inquiry creates a new and dangersous system in which all future governments can be held accountable not just to parliament and the people but to their successors in the executive.”

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