SECTION 2. ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS – PROBLEMS & OPPORTUNITIES FOR REFORM
5. PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY DETERMINES GOVERNMENT
The need to retain confidence of the House makes that House a kind of standing electoral college for individual ministers and the government as a whole. Ministers are accountable to the house for their actions and they can lose office for no greater reason than that another prime minister is preferred. Ministers are, as the constitutions of the Australian colonies from 1855 stated ‘Officers liable to retire from Office on political grounds.’ This is much lower bar than impeachment (which the US retained).[i] Where one party or coalition has a majority, change either occurs at elections or because the PM’s colleagues fear the next election result will be negative. During ‘hung’ parliaments governments are much more responsive to MPs and parliamentary committees (see below).
[i] As emphasized earlier, there are no provisions of natural justice in the termination of a minister’s commission. A minister may well be required/permitted to make a statement by parliament. But the PM may decide to terminate his commission. As long as PM has the confidence of parliament, ministers can be dismissed by the PM. If the PM does not have the confidence of parliament, all the PMs other ministers are ‘liable to retire on political grounds’. There is no presumption of innocence but the presumption of convenience.