Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 11 February 2010) . . Page.. 281 ..
The estimates committee also plays a key role in the parliamentary scrutiny of the performance of the executive branch of government. In our system of government, ministers and public servants are accountable to the parliament for the use of public resources with which they have been entrusted. It is through the consideration of the estimates committee that accountability is most directly manifested. This is because accountability is as much about explanation as it is about information.
The provision of facts and figures is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of accountability. What is needed to complete the picture is for the relevant officials to explain not only the details of the “what” and the “how” but also the “why” of departmental administrations. Members’ dissection of the financial and performance information provided during the estimates process can therefore be a catalyst to improving management and administration practice in the public sector. It is always a reminder to government of its obligation to be accountable to the Assembly and to the people of the ACT for its policy decisions.
The government has sought, through an amendment that Mr Corbell has just moved, to have two members of the government appointed to the estimates committee. While the Greens have listened to the arguments presented regarding the appointment of a sixth member to the committee, we hold significant concerns relating to the problems that arise with an even number of members on the committee. If a decision falls into a deadlock situation, there is no majority; the decision must be negated. The Greens also believe that the arrangements proposed in this motion reflect the new configuration within the Assembly and provide the appropriate membership configuration for an Assembly that does not have majority government.
Mr Speaker, the Greens will support Mr Smyth’s motion today in the good faith that the estimates committee, when it is established, will be mindful of the committee secretariat’s finite resources.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (10.40): In closing the debate, I thank Ms Hunter and Mr Corbell for their support. The opposition will not be supporting the amendment. I think the case we made last year for it is quite clear. This would see 100 per cent of the Labor Party members available on the committee. For the Greens, it is either 50 per cent of their membership or two-thirds—67 per cent—of those that are available to be on the committee and for the Liberal Party it would be 40 per cent. But the tradition is that you have an uneven number so that you do not ever get a deadlock inside a committee. If you follow Mr Corbell’s logic, we are just putting people on for the sake of having people there, and people are voting on party lines.
Most committees tend, in my experience, to try and leave party politics at the door. That is the whole point of committees. It is about working together. I do not see the reason for the inclusion of a second Labor Party member. Indeed, this has been proven in many committees—for instance, most recently the inquiry into the opening of the prison where the Labor Party member put aside party membership and did the job on behalf of the community. I am hoping that is what the estimates committee will do, so we will be voting against the amendment.