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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 11 Hansard (4 November) . . Page.. 3569..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

attempt to explain what it all meant. It is, and always has been, a top-down policy wonk discussion. COAG, as usual, knows best and we should all just shut up and do what it says! The detail of what these changes mean is in the seven Bills which were circulated in this place only in September. What they all mean in reality is anyone's guess. I defy the Government to say categorically that it knows how this system will work in practice when it is up and running. If members opposite do know, I ask them to explain it in this place today. If they succeed, they will go boldly where no-one has gone before, because no academic or bureaucrat has had the guts to predict what this market will do once it is established. If the Government succeeds in explaining this system, I suggest its members would be better employed on Wall Street. I await their response with interest.

Finally, Mr Speaker, I have a feeling today - Melbourne Cup day - that we are all about to be "Jeffed" by these Bills. You know what I mean: You have an irritating itch in your behind and you have no idea how it got there.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (4.56): Mr Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter today. The Council of Australian Governments first met on these issues on 7 December 1992. It was formed as a forum for executive governments to meet and discuss significant matters of national interest with the aim of achieving reform - not the things Mr Berry was talking about before, but that is another issue. However, it goes without saying that the development of any reforms agreed at COAG is subject to all the usual requirements. If the subject matter is governed by legislation, it needs to be considered by the local parliament at State or Territory level.

Mr Speaker, it is important that we have checks and balances in any system of government. That is the very basis of our democratic system in this country. The balance with COAG is to ensure that the interests of Australia as a whole are not overlooked in the hurry to look after the local electoral fortunes of individual jurisdictions. The big picture is tempered by the opportunity given to local parliaments to debate any legislation arising out of COAG agreements. This is a balance that is necessary for the good governance and proper functioning of our federal system of government.

But when we start to look at the facts in this debate, it becomes clear that the members opposite, and possibly to a smaller extent Mr Osborne, are again fairly ill-informed. Since February 1995 COAG has met only twice - in April 1995 and June 1996. The third meeting is scheduled for this Friday, as I mentioned earlier. I attended both of these meetings as Chief Minister for the Territory. Mr Speaker, I have always reported outcomes to the Assembly by way of ministerial statements and earlier today I made a statement outlining the meeting that is coming up this Friday.

Mr Speaker, I do not know what Mr Osborne thinks happens at heads of government meetings or when we all get together. This is a tough forum that is renowned for hard negotiation, with all members being acutely aware of the needs and aspirations of their local communities. Indeed, over and above everything else, there has been widespread public debate on many of the significant reforms currently before the Assembly. In addition, when attending COAG no leader is foolish enough to overlook his or her own accountability requirements as a member of parliament or an elected representative.

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