Thursday, December 03, 2009

Retirement of Harry Evans

In Parliamentary leadership in a representative democracy Canadian Historian Christopher Moore was very impressed that the fight in the Liberal Party was over principles and policy. I think that's right, regardless of one's views on the climate change issue.

As it happened, the end of this Senate sitting marked the retirement of Harry Evans, Clerk of the Australian Senate. His departure marks the end of an era.

To understand this, you first need to understand the role of the Parlament and of the Senate within Parliament. Despite the erosion created by the rise of presidential style executive Government, the final head of power in the Australian system rests with Parliament.

Within Australia's two chamber system, the Senate began as a states' house. The Party system effectively destroyed that role. Instead, the Senate evolved into a house of review.

Each chamber has its own Department that runs its operations and reports to that chamber rather than the Government. Harry Evans as Clerk could only be removed by the Senate, not by the Government.

Harry Evans as Clerk served the Senate and was dedicated to its preservation. He made his encyclopaedic knowledge of Parliament available to all, and was zealous in preserving the Senate's position in the face of executive challenge. This made him very unpopular, especially with PM's Keating and Howard.

Attitudes were very different when when Harry Evans began his career. This allowed him to grow to the point where he was, effectively, cemented in. I do wonder how we are going to replace him.

You will get a little of the flavour of Harry here.

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