Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 16 September 2021) . . Page.. 2587 ..
(5) for the purposes of this committee’s operation, standing order 254D does not apply; and
(6) the committee deliver its final report no later than the last sitting day of 2021.”.
I support Ms Lee’s motion to establish a COVID-19 committee, because when government decisions are having such profound impacts on people’s lives, it is more important than ever that the government is scrutinised. The Canberra community is placing an incredible amount of trust in us to keep them healthy and lead them through this crisis. A committee will ensure that we continue to be worthy custodians of that trust. We can assure the public that we are doing everything within the power of the Assembly to maintain accountability for these decisions which are impacting lives so much. The more that government decisions are impacting lives, the more scrutiny there should be. That is why we should be utilising all of the options available to us within our democracy to ensure transparency, accountability and scrutiny.
The committee will provide a much-needed opportunity for the Assembly to hear from the community. It will host hearings that will give a platform to many corners of the community to share their stories, ensuring that we continue to get the balance right and do everything we can to support the community during this crisis.
We have all made sacrifices in the name of public health, and I would like to thank the community for doing the right thing by following the health orders. The community trust decision-makers to have an unprecedented level of control over our lives. This is all, of course, for the greater good, to protect the lives and livelihoods of Canberrans. However, it would be a disservice to the Canberra community who have sacrificed so much if we do not ensure that there is continued scrutiny of these decisions. To not do so in a time of crisis when the community is sacrificing so much and trusting their leaders so much would mean that we were failing in our role as parliamentarians. The members of this place have a duty to the community—a duty to continually keep the government, ourselves and each other accountable. I support the scrutiny of government decisions; therefore, I support the establishment of this committee.
I will now outline the amendment that I have brought forward. It includes some minor changes. Firstly, it seeks to bring the make-up of the committee in line with the make-up of all committees during the term of this Assembly, being one member from each party. This also prevents the deadlock of a tied vote, which can become a feature of four-member committees.
I also seek to implement some practices to ensure that the committee’s operations do not unduly impinge on officials who are already working day and night on the COVID response. Finally, I see that an important part of this committee’s work is to listen to the community and to gather their feedback in a structured sense, so as to form a coherent picture. This is not to suggest that the government is not already listening, but with so much going on and so much government action, it is important to listen to, and make sure that we hear from, a diverse range of voices, including those whose voices are not as loud as others.