Page 223 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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The object of this bill and amendment is to bring consistency and clarity to the way in which Assembly committees are referred across the statute books, in respect to the statutory functions that they perform. In the Ninth Assembly, the Office of the Legislative Assembly and the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office identified that the way in which the Assembly committees was described varies considerably across the ACT statutes. It was identified that in a number of cases the approach that has been adopted could potentially lead to confusion about which particular Assembly committee had been given a functional responsibility pursuant to any statutory provision.

As an example, there are a number of provisions that confer the statutory function on the relevant committee of the Legislative Assembly, or the appropriate committee of the Legislative Assembly, without any prescription in the enactment as to how the relevant or appropriate committee will be determined. In other cases, statutory provisions confer functions on Assembly standing committees by way of a reference to the committee’s parliamentary role—for example, the committee responsible for the consideration of legal issues or the committee responsible for electoral matters. In these cases, while there is no explicit reference to the Assembly’s resolution of the appointment to the relevant subject matter, an ambiguity may arise as to which of the Assembly’s committees is considered to be given the statutory function under the enactment.

Early in the Tenth Assembly, I raised these matters with the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure, which agreed that it was appropriate for me, in my role as Speaker, to develop an amendment bill to remedy these issues. To address these issues, the bill will amend statutory provisions referring to an Assembly committee in order that they are rendered as the relevant Assembly committee, and will also amend relevant statutory provisions in order that the term “relevant Assembly committee” for each provision is defined as a standing committee in the Legislative Assembly, nominated in writing by the Speaker for that provision.

Mr Assistant Speaker, this approach proceeds much along the same lines as provisions in section 228 of the Legislation Act 2001 relating to the consideration of statutory appointments by Assembly standing committees, whereby the Speaker nominates which particular committee is to undertake that role. Under the changes, the Speaker would prepare a schedule naming each of the Assembly standing committees responsible for each statutory function. The schedule would be tabled in the Assembly, published on the Assembly website, and would allow MLAs, members of the public sector and members of the community to access a single source of authority as to which statutory functions and responsibilities are performed by which committees in the Assembly.

This approach offers flexibility and can withstand changes to the committee structures that are provided for in each new Assembly’s resolution appointing committees. The schedule will also be revised and tabled in the Assembly where new statutory functions relating to committees are passed. Importantly, the bill will not alter or otherwise affect the statutory functions that are performed by the Assembly committees.

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