Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 15 Hansard (Tuesday, 13 December 2005) . . Page.. 4718 ..
Perhaps as a result of this there has been little conflict in the past with the agreements signed on to by the ACT government. However, if the government decides to keep Assembly members out of the process, it will be in contrast to the Chief Minister’s approach to the federal terrorism legislation, which did a favour to the whole of Australia. We note that, while the opposition censured the Chief Minister for that, they later acknowledged that that was the consultation we had—limited though it was—on the bill.
While I like the idea of having a six-monthly list available to the Assembly outlining the agreements the ACT is negotiating and a website listing the finalised agreements and their contents, there remain a number of problems with this move arising out of the eradication of existing provisions. First, there will be no legislative basis requiring the government to keep the promises it has made about the manner in which it will inform the Assembly and the public about interstate agreements. All we have from the government are words and promises, which do not contain the power to keep the government to them. This is not enough. How can we be assured that current or future governments will keep to these promises? The vigilance of Assembly members may be the only way to ensure public scrutiny.
Second, under the new rules, if an interstate agreement is initiated, conducted and concluded before the next six-monthly list of agreements is provided to the Assembly, there does not appear to be any available method to inform the Assembly of those events. While it may be rare for such a situation to occur, it could occur and we should provide for that. Under these changes, Assembly members will not be informed of the negotiations until they are over—when the relevant minister tables the finalised agreement.
Third, there is no longer a requirement for the relevant minister to inform Assembly members of the position he or she is taking, or intends to take, in the negotiations. Assembly members and the public will not be informed of the minister’s stance on an agreement until the finalised agreement is tabled in the Assembly. If Assembly members wish to oppose the agreement once it has been finalised, there is no method available for them to do so. Assembly members must wait until any regulations or amendments result from the agreement—if there are any—are tabled in the Assembly. Only then could a member of the Assembly seek to disallow or vote against amendments if they did not agree with the nature or contents of the interstate agreement in the first place. Finally, there is no requirement as to when the minister must inform the Assembly about the finalised agreement. All we have is the current government’s word that it will do it as soon as is reasonably practicable.
I would like to hear Mr Stanhope respond as to how he thinks these changes might affect the Labor Party when one day it is again in opposition. Does he think opposition members and crossbenchers will be provided with enough information about the government’s negotiations with other jurisdictions? Does he think there will be adequate protection of the Assembly’s ability to carry out its legislative deliberations without being subjected to necessity or compulsion due to the actions of the executive?
Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the Liberal Party was in power and the proposed anti-terror measures were being introduced. The federal Liberal government