The conference drew together Members of Parliament from Australia and Pacific nations to look at the theme of “Leadership Excellence for the Common Good: Share, Exchange, and Act.”
Delegates discussed subjects such as ensuring a well-informed and engaged public, ethical governance, and democratic and parliamentary best-practice. Increasing the number of women in leadership positions was an important topic.
House, who is president of WA’s Legislative Council, and co-chair of the conference with Nikki Rattle, the Speaker of the Cook Islands parliament, says: “The conference has been terrific. It’s covered a wide range of parliamentary practices and procedures.
“We all operate under the same basic set of principals stemming from the Westminster system, but every jurisdiction - doesn’t matter how big, or small, or large, or complicated - all do it slightly differently.
“That’s the first thing any MP takes away from the conference. It’s a great professional development opportunity for any parliamentarian in any jurisdiction.
“Regardless of whether they are a new MP, or have been a member for decades, everybody takes away something positive and constructive from forums like this.”
Subjects like accountability, procedures, standing orders, parliament’s role and representation were covered.
“Everyone have a slightly different takeout from all that. It really makes us appreciate the diversity of who we are as human beings and our will and our ambition to do things in a right and proper way for the benefit of the people we represent.
“That’s what parliamentary democracy is all about.”
And House says the conference participants will return home and make a contribution there.
“We had a great session on ethical governance, transparency, openness, responsibility and issues around parliament oversight.
“Every parliament does that differently and has a slightly different take on it. We all basically agree on the principles, outline and framework.”
House says parliamentarians do see transparency as an issue. He believes people enter parliament as a politician, but then they realise the bigger part of the role is in community representation and then to be a parliamentarian. “The smart ones will learn and adapt to be a parliamentarian, but they won’t forget their roots of being a politician.”
House’s view is that accountability and transparency are fundamental principles of a parliament. “Parliament is the people’s house where community representation comes together and the people have a right to know what is going on in their interests. Governments have to explain and justify their policies and actions in court of public opinion, which is voiced through parliament.”
He says there are interesting developments in politics around the world at the moment where people are exercising their real democratic right with a secret ballot. “Brexit and Trump are the two real game changers in the world and they have an impact for all of us involved in parliamentary democracy.
“The people are our ultimate bosses and anybody who is in a parliament who doesn’t acknowledge, or understand that, will get found out eventually.”
Nikki Rattle agrees the conference “has been fabulous”.
She says there were 14 branches of the CPA present and the first topic was communications and information sharing. “We had some good presentations and then questions and answers to clarify things for people, so that worked really fabulously.
“We looked at exchanging experiences of other people through their presentations to the floor, on benchmarking. From a scoring system we can say, ‘Oh, that’s a weak area’ or, ‘we’re not doing so well there so how can we improve that?’”
Such as one of her main aims - to increase the number of women in parliament.
“Exactly … that was a good discussion.”
Wednesday’s theme was about Acting.
“How do we then use the information we shared together and put a system in place to act on those things to improve our parliament?”
“We looked at procedures of parliament. What sort of reforms need to be done in our standing orders with the things we have found that are not working very well. How do we reform those and make things better?
“What are others doing that could make things better for ourselves?”