An examination of the effectiveness of the lower houses of the legislatures of Queensland (Australia) and Uttar Pradesh (India) in scrutinising and influencing the executive

Suman Ojha (2010). An examination of the effectiveness of the lower houses of the legislatures of Queensland (Australia) and Uttar Pradesh (India) in scrutinising and influencing the executive PhD Thesis, School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Suman Ojha
Thesis Title An examination of the effectiveness of the lower houses of the legislatures of Queensland (Australia) and Uttar Pradesh (India) in scrutinising and influencing the executive
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-11
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor E/Prof Roger Scott
Ms Diane Zetlin
Total pages 226
Total colour pages Nil
Total black and white pages 226
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary The notion of parliamentary democracy lies in the supremacy of the legislature where it is the source of policy, law and power; however, the capacity of the legislature to hold the executive accountable has been questioned in academic and political circles. It is a commonplace opinion nowadays that legislative institutions have become redundant or ‘rubber stamps’ of the executive because they are ineffective in providing surveillance of the executive branch of government. The decline in the powers and status of the legislature is usually attributed to the existence of disciplined party structures and the level of resources commanded by the executive. Others argue a contrary view that legislatures have not declined but rather adapted to new situations and developed new legislative mechanisms to influence and scrutinise the executive in the contemporary period. Most scholars have noted that the relative powers of legislatures may be easy to discuss in general terms but it is difficult to make definitive generalisations without detailed examination of specific cases. Therefore, rather than merely speculating from the divergent theories on the effectiveness of legislatures, this study takes a nuanced approach to the performance of legislatures by comparing two cases from widely different contexts. It is accepted that party organisations and the expanded range of government activity have diminished the wider constitutional functions in both contexts. The main questions investigated here relate to the capacity of legislatures to influence the behaviour of the executive and scrutinise its decisions - what factors make legislatures effective or ineffective and in what areas and how can their effectiveness be increased? The two cases selected for the study are the state Legislative Assembly of Queensland (Australia) and the state Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh (India). Archival documents were analysed and interviews were conducted with former and current Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assembly in both places. The mechanisms for exerting the legislature’s influence or ensuring executive accountability operate through various parliamentary devices and procedures which were therefore the primary focuses of the thesis. The devices examined in the two cases were based on Reid and Forrest’s classification of legislative procedures and devices. These are financial legislation which includes budgetary debates and scrutiny of the estimates; non-financial legislation which includes scrutiny of bills; and non-legislative measures which include parliamentary questions, debates/discussion during plenary session and the work of parliamentary committees. The two case studies provide four conclusions. Firstly, the legislature as an institution has not declined in all aspects as it is still relevant and useful for functioning democracies. It performs several functions which no other institution can perform. Secondly, parliamentary scrutiny and accountability of the executive was found to be relatively weak in both cases; however, the legislatures were able to effectively discuss and ventilate public grievances and influence the executive to some extent. Thirdly, executive domination and manipulation of the legislature was observed in both cases, which meant that accountability functions operated only to an extent that they did not cause political embarrassment or challenge the survival of the executive. Fourthly, in Queensland the perceived ‘decline of parliament’ was associated with members’ perception of its role as a ‘theatre’ for serving party political interests and individual career advancement whereas in Uttar Pradesh the decline was due to members’ disengagement from parliamentary business compared to other roles. The thesis will conclude by suggesting recommendations based on this analysis to improve the effectiveness of the legislatures in scrutinising and influencing the executive.
Keyword parliament
legislature
executive accountability
Uttar Pradesh
Queensland
parliamentary questions
parliamentary committees
scrutiny
Additional Notes nil

 
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