Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 2 Hansard (20 March) . . Page.. 593..
I thought that it was time to act. I have had discussions with the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about a way forward. This report of the standing committee relating to standing orders and committee reports is part of a solution, but by itself it will not solve the problem of the committee system in the ACT.
The committee system in the ACT has worked extraordinarily well over seven Assemblies without having to be quite so prescriptive about how committees should consider reports. It has done so because of trust. It has done so because there has been a strong level of leadership on both sides of the chambers and on the crossbenches about how important the committee system is.
In this Assembly, that trust is gone. I think that trust dissolved back in November 2012 when the committees were set up for this Assembly. There were negotiations, I understand, for three-member committees. Suddenly, on the floor of the chamber, PAC had a fourth member. That was done without any warning for the opposition. Then all hell broke loose.
Now we have a situation which nobody wanted—nobody wanted it at the time; nobody played the outcome of this through to the end—where every committee is a four-member committee because there is no trust in this Assembly. The government did not trust the opposition to run committees in a dignified way, in the way that committees had been run for seven previous Assemblies. The opposition did not trust the government's motives in trying to put a fourth member on the public accounts committee. As a result, there has been a breakdown of trust.
Some committees are working; other committees are dysfunctional. I know the amount of time that is taken up by the Clerk, the head of the committee office and the committee secretaries to try to resolve procedural problems because people on both sides are essentially beating their chest to see how tough they are and how smart they can be at gaming the standing orders—not for the good of the Assembly, not for the good of the people who submit to inquiries, not for good outcomes for the people of the ACT or the region, but just so that they can play the standing orders. It is time that we put an end to the games and got back to a system whereby the committees start to work in the way they have worked for the last seven Assemblies.
I have had discussions with the Chief Minister; I have had discussions with the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that very soon we will get to an agreement on a way forward so that we will have a better committee system. But even changing the structure of the committee system will not be enough, because we have to rebuild the trust. Quite frankly, the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition—I have said this to both of them—have to get their groups into a huddle and lay down the law about how the committee system will work. If there is real leadership to make sure that the committee system is cooperative, they can be effective, they can scrutinise the government, they can look at policies and they can come up with proposals for a better approach, for the benefit of the people of the ACT.
I commend the work that has been done by Mr Smyth in particular. He brought forward a series of changes to try and break the impasse. Dr Bourke put forward a
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