The Chain of Responsibility

There are certain responsibilities when you are driving a vehicle. You are required to comply with rules such as not being affected by drugs or alcohol, not checking your social media accounts while driving, maintaining control over your vehicle, parking only where allowed and so on. Some who make a living by driving have to comply with additional rules. For example, taxi and ride share drivers have to obtain authorisation from their state’s transport department as do drivers of buses. Truck drivers have a system of graduated licences and additional regulation which effectively means that not everyone with a truck licence can legally drive semis or ‘B Doubles’ on our major highways.

The transport industry also has ‘Chain of Responsibility’ legislation in most states. While all legislation is complex and there are differences between jurisdictions, the ‘Chain of Responsibility’ legislation requires all those in the transport industry to be responsible for the safety of the national transport fleet. So if the company manager or supervisor requires a truck driver to perform an action that is inherently unsafe, or the person consigning the freight requires the task to be completed in an unsafe manner, the person giving the direction can be held responsible for the consequences of the illegal instruction rather than the driver of the vehicle in question.

Pity there is no ‘Chain of Responsibility’ legislation for the Coalition Government. They seem to have no concept that they have been the government for over 6 years and therefore own the responsibility for their actions. Here’s a couple of examples.

On the first day of the 46th Parliament, Finance Minister Cormann was interviewed by Virginia Trioli on ABC’s News Breakfast. Cormann was being asked to discuss how the proposed tax cuts would be passed by the Parliament by the end of the week.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Look, here's what I'm interested in, because you clearly have the numbers on the crossbench to pass that tax bill in its entirety. The Centre Alliance see no impediment. That's their phrase. Cory Bernardi votes with you. Jacqui Lambie is on board. Why this repeated focus on Labor, Labor, Labor, to quote Barnaby Joyce?
Or Trade Minister Birmingham on ABC’s Insiders the previous weekend, again on the proposed tax cuts
Simon Birmingham: We want to work with whoever is willing to pass this. But it is a stain on the Labor Party that will last all the way through to the next election. If they block and vote against tax relief for hardworking Australians. Now, what we know is that they say they’re going to try to amend this and put an alternate proposal forward. Not an alternate proposal that they took to the election, mind you. So they are saying that they won’t support the proposal the government…
Why should the opposition just roll over and support whatever dross the governing political party puts to Parliament? In the 46th Parliament, as in previous ones, no political party achieved an absolute majority before preference distributions. Therefore, no political party has the right to suggest that the public expects them to legislate whatever their policy planning process suggests is a good thing without discussion, debate or change.

Abbott, when Opposition Leader, gave the impression he would not support anything promoted by the Government of the Day. Benefit for the country, the environment or those with a disability (or even truth or accuracy for that matter) didn’t alter the constant negativity and obstruction. Gillard’s Government in particular showed some responsibility by working with others to achieve real and beneficial change for the country while highlighting the obstruction of Abbott. There is a large difference between highlighting actions taken by others and blaming them for an adverse outcome. While there may have been occasions where the legislation didn’t meet all of the objectives of the Gillard Government Party room or the ALP more generally — 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

By contrast, the current Coalition Government is hellbent on blaming the ALP for its failure to be able to work with the cards it was given. The ALP is the official Opposition — their job is to not just oppose but to suggest alternatives to government policy that, in their view, would provide a better outcome now and in the future. The ALP seems to understand both parts of their job as they were indicating they may not vote for legislation giving billions in tax cuts to high income earners in the term of the 47th or 48th Parliaments while offering suggestions on bringing forward middle income earners’ tax cuts to generate additional economic activity. The ALP’s job isn’t to roll over on all the legislation put up by the Coalition and ask for a tickle on the tummy for being a good lap dog.

The ‘Chain of Responsibility’ in the transport industry extends to the Managing Director — if the person holding that role demands an employee to do something illegal, there are consequences. It’s the same in politics, the ‘Chain of Responsibility’ goes up to the Prime Minister. If he (in this case) can’t get his legislation through Parliament he should wear the consequences and either negotiate, withdraw or amend the proposal so the majority of Parliamentarians agree with it. It’s certainly a realistic expectation, Gillard did it for three years. Morrison’s failure to accept the ‘Chain of Responsibility’ for his government’s lack of consensus, negotiation skill or compromise is not the fault of the ALP or anyone else but himself.

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