Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1708..
Inquiries Amendment Bill 2000
Debate resumed from 29 November 2000, on motion by Mr Rugendyke:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR HUMPHRIES (Chief Minister, Minister for Community Affairs and Treasurer) (11.10): Mr Speaker, the government does not support the Inquiries Amendment Bill 2000. I think our position was made fairly clear during the debate last year in this place on the question of whether the Assembly had the capacity to require the appointment of an inquiry under the Inquiries Act by virtue of a motion or resolution of the Assembly.
Mr Speaker, the bill provides that the Assembly can direct the executive to establish an inquiry under the Inquiries Act where there has been a resolution passed to that effect by the Legislative Assembly. It will be obvious to all members that this is a change from the previous position where the legislation was clear that the executive, and the executive alone, had the capacity to determine whether an inquiry would be conducted under the Inquiries Act. That separation of powers was reflected in the legislation in the ACT, that is the Inquiries Act, and it was respected by a very long period of practice, or convention if you like, in this and other places in Australia.
As a result it was the government's view from the outset of the debate about the disability inquiry that it was not appropriate for the Legislative Assembly to assume that it would be able to override the government's views and have an inquiry conducted of its own. It was, of course, open to the Assembly to have other sorts of inquiries, such as inquiries by standing or other committees of the Assembly, but the fact is that the Assembly did not take that view and decided that there should be an inquiry under the Inquiries Act.
Mr Speaker, in many ways the horse has bolted on this one. The convention that this is a matter for government has already been dismantled, or at least very badly damaged, and we are left today with the reality that the Assembly is able to impose its view on these matters. In a sense the question today is whether we should formalise that arrangement by formally placing in the Inquiries Act the provision for the Assembly to determine how and when and perhaps by whom an inquiry is to be conducted.
Mr Speaker, for consistency the government will oppose this legislation, but it is worth noting that the matter, in a sense, has already been resolved. The Assembly has changed the rules. It has decided it will have this power and there is much doubt, I suspect, as to whether that genie can be put back into that bottle.
The inquiry that was sought by the Assembly is under way at the moment. For the sake of the record, Mr former Justice Gallop has produced an interim report which at present is being considered by the government. I understand he is likely to seek an extension of time for further consideration of issues by his board of inquiry.
The reality of that inquiry going ahead needs to be balanced against the considerations for the longer term of the way in which this issue has been approached and how we end up in the position of having this power transferred from the executive into the hands of the Assembly as a whole. I believe in the supremacy of the legislature. It is directly