Page 396 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 22 March 2022
As part of the inquiry, the Office of the Legislative Assembly and the officers of the Legislative Assembly, the ACT Ombudsman, the Integrity Commissioner, the Auditor-General and the ACT Electoral Commission all raised concerns that the bill may undermine their offices’ independence. Specifically, the Latimer House principles state that parliament should be serviced by professional staff, independent of the regular public service. In order for the parliamentary service to be independent of the regular public service, it is a precondition that neither the government of the day nor public servants who serve the government of the day, in any way direct or influence how the parliamentary service performs its works.
In fact, section 8 of the OLA Act mandates that the Clerk and the office staff are not subject to direction by the executive or any minister in the exercise of their functions. This creates conflict with clause 1281 of the bill, which empowers the Chief Minister to determine a framework for evaluating whether services or works required by a public sector entity should be provided by the public sector or an external provider. The ACT government’s defence that similar powers can be found in the Commonwealth Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act, PGPA Act, is not accurate. Nowhere in the PGPA Act is a power conferred on the commonwealth finance minister to direct parliamentary clerks or other independent statutory offices in relation to the performance of their functions. The ACT government assurances have not convinced or assured independent statutory office holders that they must be taken seriously. Introducing legislation that even implies the potential undermining of independence damages government credibility and must be avoided.
I therefore propose the following alternative recommendation: that the committee recommend that the bill be amended so as to explicitly state within the proposed new part 9A, that the Office of the Legislative Assembly and the officers of the Legislative Assembly are exempt from the operation of the part. I wish to go on public record that I believe that the Assembly should not pass this bill in its current form. Thank you.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Administration and Procedure—Standing Committee
Statement by chair
MS BURCH (Brindabella) (11.48): Pursuant to standing order 246A, I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure.
On Thursday, 10 February 2022, the Legislative Assembly resolved that the notice of motion moved by Ms Lawder, which would have the effect of establishing a select committee on estimates 2022-23, be referred to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure. As members would be aware, in the last Assembly this committee recommended that the 2020-21 budget be referred to standing committees as a trial, and that, at the completion of that process, this committee would undertake a review to ascertain whether or not it offers up benefits over the existing process. The 2020-21 budget was referred to standing committees as recommended, but as the annual reports were also referred at around the same time, the standing committees were asked to review both the budget and annual reports together. The 2021-22 budget was also referred to standing committees in October 2021.