Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 2775..
MR BERRY (continuing):
This amendment has been applauded by the Chief Minister. It merely introduces into the scheme proposed for the assessment of annual reports the requirement that no standing committee meet at the same time as another one is meeting. Bear in mind that some members are on more than one committee. They would have a great deal of difficulty dealing with a committee in formal sessions if they were attending another one. You cannot attend them all at once, not even Mr Hird. It is important for the rest of the Assembly that we are able to gain access to committees and observe the usual practice of all members being involved in the process. This is an amendment described as sensible by none other than the Chief Minister, which might cause some people to worry, but they need not worry about it, because it has my endorsement too.
MR HIRD (11.09): Mr Speaker, I find myself at a loss in voting for this amendment and endorsing the proposal by our colleague Mr Berry. A bolt of lightning has hit Mr Berry. I certainly appreciate his amendment because of the number of committees I am involved with. I thank him for a sensible amendment, one that does him credit on this occasion.
MR KAINE (11.10): Mr Speaker, I support the motion put forward by the Chief Minister. Of course, we did discuss it, and it is generally in accord with what we discussed. I am happy to support Mr Berry's amendment, particularly as it suits my colleague Mr Hird. But there is yet another aspect which I think we need to have regard for. If all of the committees are to meet in succession over the period until 25 November and consider their reports in some detail, I think 25 November is far too tight a target. Not only does Mr Hird have to attend all of them but he also has to participate in the writing of the subsequent reports. I think that is a bit tight. There is no great urgency, so I will move a further amendment to delete the date 25 November 1999 and insert in lieu the date 1 February 2000. That will give everybody a fair opportunity to deal with the business that they have to attend to.
I have one additional comment. As I have said before in this place, the public accounts committee, currently incorporated in the Chief Minister's Portfolio Committee, has a statutory role to play in these matters. Its terms of reference require it to examine the accounts of the Government, as opposed to examining the estimates, which of course is the function of the Estimates Committee.
Referring all of these reports to the various committees of the Assembly in a sense removes the responsibility from the public accounts committee for doing what it was established to do. In any case, looking at the performance of the Government in the accounting sense, if done in a fragmented way by each of the various portfolio committees, in my view would only be half doing the job. Despite the allocation of particular agency annual reports to particular Assembly committees, I think there is still an overriding responsibility on the public accounts committee to look at the total picture.
From the PAC viewpoint, regardless of what the other committees might be doing, I think there still is a responsibility on the PAC, and I would be urging the PAC to accept the responsibility that is imposed on it by its terms of reference, to look at the