I am normally a staunch defender of the Senate as a house of review and debate. The upper house of parliament affords our political system with a much needed sense of balance; it is a forum through which the normally sizable minority (e.g. over 40%) of people who did not vote for the government can have their voice heard. Although this means that the views that I support don’t always get enshrined in legislation in an unadulterated fashion, this is merely a captive concern. I think from a democratic point of view that legislation agreed as part of a majority political compromise is in many cases the fairest result for the Australian people.
On the other hand, I don’t support antics like these from Family First Senator Steve Fielding. I don’t accept that representatives of the Senate who were elected with less than 2% of the vote over four years ago have the right to effectively block or significantly alter legislation introduced by a government endorsed at the polls less than a year ago. The fairly absurd Senate lottery system that we have in this country sometimes hands power in excess of what the electorate intended to individual members. Therefore, representatives in the Senate who have such a small proportion of the nation’s voters behind them (as Fielding does) need to strive to wield their power in a manner that is cogniscent of their actual support in the electorate. Fielding has metaphorically been granted a gun licence by the electorate to use in self-defence, but recently, he has been using it to cap anyone who doesn’t bow down to his “supreme authority”. That’s just plain wrong.
The people of Australia did not really want Steven Fielding or Nick Xenophon to be the supreme legislative arbiters of this country; that is what has happened as an unfortunate consequence of our electoral system. I believe that senators who act in a way that runs counter to the spirit of the office they hold and the representation they actually enjoy should be censured. The sort of behaviour I am talking about is not unconstitutional, but if our constitution was defined more rigorously and in a manner befitting the times we live in, it would be regarded as such.