Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (9 March) . . Page.. 878..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
my amendment, but I will speak just a little bit more to say that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit at the federal level has a role in "examining and, as appropriate, giving approval to the annual report requirements for Commonwealth agencies; in particular, by monitoring, and as necessary commenting on, the operation and appropriateness of the annual report requirements for Commonwealth agencies". My amendment will introduce a process in the Assembly for the Public Accounts Committee to be consulted but not quite approve the directions. The suggestion that the Public Accounts Committee approves the directions moves the responsibility for directions more away from the executive government, and I am happy for the committee just to be consulted in a similar manner to board appointments.
MRS CROSS (11.11): Ms Tucker's amendment allowing the Public Accounts Committee to look at annual report directions and make recommendations is very important in allowing the legislature to keep the executive accountable. Whilst I would have preferred to see the Auditor-General's recommendation of allowing the Public Accounts Committee to adapt or reject directions, I will accept Ms Tucker's amendment as it goes at least some of the way towards ensuring that the executive is kept accountable.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (11.12): It is a reasonable amendment and the Liberal Party will be supporting it. Simply what it does is provide greater scrutiny. The Public Accounts Committee can speak on behalf of the Assembly and refer it back to the minister so that the minister understands quite clearly what it is the Assembly wants from these directions. As Mrs Cross said, the annual reports are the cornerstone of accountability. It is important that we do get it right and we will support the amendment.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (11.12): The government, in its response to the Auditor-General report's, did not support this recommendation and we are not supportive of the amendment. I understand it has the support of the Assembly, and the government will accept that. But I repeat, stand by and do not resile from the response that the government gave on this recommendation in its response to the Auditor-General's report in relation to the necessity for an approach such as this. As I say, the government did not support it in its response and is not supportive of the amendment but will accept the result.
MS TUCKER (11.13): I am not quite sure what the main arguments are of the government. I will have to have another look, but, as I understand from the informal discussions, there was a concern around timing. If that is the main reason that the government are not supporting this amendment, I just say that I do not quite understand it because, if you are arguing that in some way the requirement for the Public Accounts Committee to look at this would be a problem in terms of the tabling time of various portfolio committees of their comments on annual reports, there is no necessity for the Public Accounts Committee to see those annual reports before we make comment. And there would be enough time left in the year if, after looking at comments from various portfolio committees, the Public Accounts Committee did choose to make suggestions, or, if the government responded to those comments themselves and decided to change the directions, there would not be time for the Public Accounts Committee to have a look at it. My understanding of the timing is that it would be unlikely not to have been tabled; the portfolio committees have tabled usually by January and there is time then for the