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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (4 May) . . Page.. 1225..


MR CORBELL (continuing):

This motion simply asks members to proceed with the debate on the item which we were debating this morning and which was interrupted by the lunch break and question time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Estimates 2006-2007—Select Committee

Establishment

Debate resumed.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (3.41): Whilst the opposition has great sympathy for and great understanding of Dr Foskey moving this amendment, we can see exactly why she has. It is probably out of a sense of great frustration. Unlike those opposite, we believe there should be standards, procedures and sensible traditions in this place that have served us well until now. As Mrs Dunne might have alluded to earlier in this debate, the tradition is—and this is something we agreed to last year as an opposition, as a party—that the chair of the estimates committee should go to the actual opposition. That is something we stick by.

Whilst today I have great sympathy for what Dr Foskey is proposing because of the absolute farce that Mr Corbell and the government have foisted upon this house, we will not be voting for the amendment. We will not, with some regret. Principle is important. The principle is that, traditionally in this place, the opposition chairs an estimates committee. The estimates committee, apart from the one occasion I mentioned, also usually has a majority of members who are not from the government. The government can prevaricate and try to justify its position as much as it likes, but the fact is that there are more non-executive members here than there are government members.

There have been loose coalitions in this place in the past. Even then, when we had a majority Alliance government—I cannot quite recall what the make-up was there—we have always had estimates committees chaired by someone from the opposition. That is a tradition that we will continue if we happen, with the way you are going, to win nine or 10 seats at the next election. One of you lot will be chair of the estimates committee because that is how it should be.

I am very concerned, I must say, as one of the longest serving members of this house, to see how some of the estimates committees are going. I suspect that, if last year is anything to go by, the six members on the estimates committee will be the ones asking questions. It was very difficult getting a word in edgeways last year, which again is a breach of the traditions of the house in the past, until this Sixth Assembly. In fact, members of the opposition who had portfolio responsibilities could ask questions. They would get a run and be able to ask a number of questions. It was very difficult indeed on some occasions last year. On a couple of my areas I was not able to ask a question. It is not quite the same as putting something on notice. That is not a particularly good development either.

There should be full, open and detailed scrutiny of the government's budget. If your budget is so bad that you are afraid of scrutiny, that really is your problem. It is important that the traditions we have developed in this place—and they are good


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