IPA Today

Constitutional Ban On Fracking Autocratic, Illiberal and Undemocratic

Written by
4 March 2021

The state government’s attempt to impose a constitutional ban on fracking is an unprecedented attack on democracy. No policy restriction like this exists in the Victorian constitution.

Never before in this state has a government attempted to use its temporary parliamentary majority to entrench policy changes that would require a much larger majority to change in the future.

What the government is doing isn’t about the policy merits of the fracking ban, which is already law, it’s about senior members of the Victorian parliament demonstrating its contempt for the voters by actively seeking to deprive Victorians of the democratic opportunity to deliberate on any public policy in the future.

The precedent the constitutional ban would have is to accept the idea that future parliaments could give itself the ability to pass laws that could effectively be impossible to repealed.

This is illiberal, undemocratic, and at odds with centuries of Westminster parliamentary practice—yet that will be the consequence of what the state government is doing.

IPA research has found that the Bill to ban fracking in the Victorian Constitution would set the precedent that the Parliament could use a 51 per cent majority of votes in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council to pass a law that would require a much larger majority to be repealed.

Indeed, if the principle of the Bill is accepted then Parliament could arrogate to itself the ability to pass laws that can never be repealed.

Such an outcome is quite clearly illiberal, undemocratic, and at odds with centuries of Westminster parliamentary practice—yet that will be the consequence of the passage of the Bill.

IPA research and analysis has identified the following three flaws in the Bill:

  1. Constraining a future parliament is a violation of parliamentary sovereignty  and is unconstitutional.
  2. Entrenching policy decisions in constitutional documents is autocratic and illiberal.
  3. The prohibition of gas exploration is economically and socially destructive.

A copy of the letter which outlines IPA research findings can be found at the link here.

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Morgan Begg

Morgan Begg is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs

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