Parliamentary Leadership – A Dialogue for Pacific Parliamentarians
Canberra | 11-15 March 2013
Parliaments in many Pacific island countries have struggled to establish themselves as credible and effective institutions. They are commonly criticised for being unable to perform their legislative, accountability and representational functions and, in many cases, are seen to be subordinate to the executive arms of government, providing little more than a rubber stamp for executive decisions.
At the same time, elected members of parliament often find themselves consumed by a constant cycle of negotiations to form and re-form government. This process of coalition-making can cause members to overlook the contribution they can make as parliamentarians.
In March 2013 CDI convened its second Pacific Parliamentary Leadership Dialogue, in which a select group of influential and emerging MPs from PNG (including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville), Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were invited to come together to talk about what it means to be a parliamentarian today and what they as individuals can do to re-vitalize the performance of their parliaments. Fourteen participants from four Pacific parliaments were represented: four from PNG, two from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, two from the Solomon Islands and three from Vanuatu. The participants included two vice-ministers, a provincial governor and a deputy speaker.
In a four day program of briefings and discussions participants were encouraged to distinguish between their roles as politician and as parliamentarian; to reflect on the tensions that exist between being a community advocate, member of a political party, policy maker, legislator and accountability agent; and, to consider the critically important contribution that parliament can make to good governance.
Dialogue participants met with colleagues from the Commonwealth Parliament and the ACT Legislative Assembly to discuss:
- balancing relationships between the parliamentary, executive and judicial branches of government;
- exercising parliamentary power, especially law making, policy review and administrative accountability and financial scrutiny powers; and
- upholding ethics and integrity in parliamentary leadership.
These discussions were guided by an expert panel of Dr Kay Patterson (former Australian Senator and Cabinet Minister), Professor Stephen Martin (former Australian MP and Speaker of the House of Representatives) and Trevor Rowe (former senior official in the Australian parliament).
The aim of the Dialogue was to foster new ways of thinking about parliamentary leadership, so that Pacific parliaments can assume their place as effective institutions of government. In 2013, as in 2012, we were encouraged by the high level of commitment shown by participants and we look forward to reconvening follow-up Dialogue sessions in each participating parliament to encourage alumni MPs to mobilise networks for change within their own parliaments.
Click on the links in the sidebar to access the full report, program, list of participants and images from PPLD 2013: