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The crisis poses special challenges for democratic leaders. They are expected to make important decisions in times of uncertainty and quickly develop effective plans to get us out of the crisis.
Usually, we are more interested in limiting our leaders through checks and balances of accountability. But in times of crisis, we see our leaders to lead.
Finding the right balance between accountability and quick decision making remains a challenge during the era of diminished trust in political leaders.
In Australia, the formation of a national cabinet has carried out this crisis leadership role.
The national cabinet consists of the prime minister and all the state and territory prime ministers and chief ministers. Basically, it’s COAG under another name.
Although called a cabinet, the national cabinet is technically an intergovernmental forum. Cabinet conventions and rules, such as cabinet solidarity and confidentiality provisions, do not apply to national cabinets.
Its strength is what is brought by leaders from all Australian jurisdictions to be negotiated on behalf of their people, and to implement decisions taken. This model is called executive federalism.
Advantages Of Executive Federalism In Times Of Crisis
In a crisis, decision making automatically shifts up in the hope that leaders will work together to find a way through the crisis. The National Cabinet fulfilled this expectation in several ways.
Timeliness And Risk
Response time is very important, and with national cabinet meetings several times a week, problems can be overcome when they arise. The risk is reduced by bringing together technical and political experts.
The national cabinet is supported by the chief medical officer, who meets as the Australian Health Protection and Principles Committee (AHPPC). They collect modeling, research and data that form the basis of decisions made by the national cabinet.
The national cabinet is a mechanism for bringing together information and sharing intelligence, and the capacity to gather and test ideas before locking up the coordination and jurisdictional capacity.
Because of the frequency of meetings, decisions are expected and made. Consideration from the perspective and expertise of different jurisdictions places accuracy and competition in decision making and reinforces the results.
Clarity And Coherence
In times of national crisis, agreement on an immediate and effective action plan and implementation is very important. The national cabinet carries that focus. By setting aside their politics as usual squabbling, the leaders showed their desire for agreement and unity and communicated the firmness of purpose to the wider community.
Though the search for unity can be defeated by local conditions. Some countries move earlier to introduce restrictions and closures outside the national cabinet.
Although criticized for violating the rankings, the prime ministers react to different circumstances and concerns in their jurisdiction. They decided to exchange perceptions about the loss of unity against the need to create a local response to local conditions.
The national cabinet helps reconcile the two alliances that citizens have with the national government and their state or territory governments. People are looking for a coherent national approach through the crisis, but they do not want to see each jurisdiction be disadvantaged compared to other countries. In the national cabinet, small countries have the same representation, whereas in parliament their representation is proportional to the size of their population.
Is This Anti-Democracy
Executive federalism forums such as the national cabinet can be criticized for being undemocratic and irresponsible, with the role of parliament being marginalized. However, these forums play different roles.
The national cabinet deals with negotiations and compromises between countries, which recognize differences and diversity. Parliament is about the will of the majority.
The connection has not been lost with parliament, which is deferred not pro-rogued, and will be brought back to issue laws from decisions made by the national cabinet. After the COVID-19 crisis has passed, the full democratic accountability process can scrutinize decisions taken.
This includes investigations of parliamentary committees and royal commissions. The examination and balance of democratic obstacles to our leaders will reaffirm themselves.