Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 November 2005) . . Page.. 4406 ..
understanding what the legislation is all about. Obviously on the face of it we see what it is about but no one has scrutinised it in any detail.
That is the whole point. At the end of the in-principle stage of the debate, I will be moving, under standing order 174, that we send this bill off to the justice committee. It has a crucial role in the whole process, as outlined by the act as it currently exists.
Without stating any reason why this bill should be passed, on 20 October the Chief Minister tabled the bill, and here we are a month later attempting to pass it. Obviously, over the last couple of months the Chief Minister has had some issue about bills being sped through parliament, and this one is going at a very rapid rate. In his tabling speech the Chief Minister made the bald statement:
The interstate agreements act has proven, however, to be a limited and less than satisfactory vehicle for such consultation.
Why has it been limited? Why has it been less than satisfactory? What is the level of complaint? Has the case been made for repeal? We have got the Chief Minister’s statement, but there is no evidence that the act is a less than satisfactory vehicle for consultation. Perhaps it is because governments—and I am willing to say successive governments—of either ilk have not adhered to what the act seeks to do. If members have not read it, they should do so before they vote on this bill because what they may well be doing is voting away some of their rights as legislators. The Administration (Interstate Agreements) Act 1997 is worth reading. Under “Object”, the act states:
The object of this act is to impose on Ministers—
That is, the parliament says to ministers, “You’re responsible to the elected body for your conduct. You’re not over the elected body.” The act continues:
duties to inform and consult with other members of the Legislative Assembly in regard to interstate agreements, so as to protect the freedom of the Assembly—
This act protects the Assembly:
to carry out its legislative deliberations without being subjected to necessity or compulsion due to the actions of the executive, and shall be construed accordingly.
The act is saying that the executive is responsible ultimately to the house, and that is how it should be. That is what the people of the ACT think. That is why they elect their members. That is what everybody thought in 1997. Liberal, Labor and the crossbench all agreed on the primacy of the house. But now, the champion of Westminster, the man who in this place has said on many occasions, “I believe in the Westminster system”, is saying, “There goes the primacy of the Assembly. It is up to the executive.” So much for that famous statement on the morning of the election: You have nothing to fear from majority government.
The act deals with notification of negotiations. Section 6 (1) states: