Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 6 May 2010) . . Page.. 1845 ..
This is not a get-out-of-jail-free ticket for the government. When the estimates committee sets up a process for answering questions, the government should be answering those questions to the estimates committee. The estimates committee needs that information before it can do its report. This is a backup mechanism; we do not want it to be a mechanism whereby the government just puts off answering the questions as long as possible, because that would be an abuse of the estimates process. I do not think that there is a member on the opposition or crossbench or a member who has been on the administration and procedure committee or the chairs committee where we have discussed this who thinks that the executive failing to answer questions in estimates is acceptable.
The message today to the executive is: this does not let you off the hook. We in this place expect the executive to answer the questions before the estimates committee concludes. If there is some reason why that does not happen—sometimes there might be something particularly technical—the small number of questions—not the hundreds of questions that we have seen in the past—that are outstanding must be answered within 30 days, and the Speaker has the capacity and the responsibility to come back and report after 30 days any outstanding questions. The Assembly will then have to take whatever steps it deems necessary if there are still outstanding questions 30 days later.
The intent of all the discussions is to require the executive to answer questions according to the timetable established by the estimates committee. I am not sure what that timetable is, but it does not matter. The estimates committee has made its decisions, and this is a backup mechanism. I am making those comments on behalf of the administration and procedure committee.
I have also been asked by my party room to make extra comments, and these are those extra comments: my colleagues who were in the estimates process said that they would prefer a different approach, because the approach here has risks associated with it. The approach they would like to see—it did not have the wholehearted support of the estimates committee and it probably would not have the wholehearted support of this Assembly, but it is the view of the Canberra Liberals—is that we should not finalise debate on the budget until all the questions outstanding are answered by the executive. That is the position that we as the opposition in this place will take. We expect the executive to answer every question before we conclude debate upon the budget by the end of June. That is the position that we will take. It is not exactly a position that is widely accepted here, but I am putting members on notice that that is the position that we will take.
Putting back on my hat as a member of administration and procedure, the overall position is that this is a system that we need to trial. We need to find a way of holding the executive to account. I recommend to members this amendment to temporary orders, which will be reviewed later this year and before the next estimates process. I commend the motion to members, and I look forward to their support.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and