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MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (12.13): If what Ms McRae has just said is actually the truth, I wonder why the motion, right at the beginning, refers only to Bills coming forward from the Executive. Quite seriously, if this motion was meant in the form that it was put forward, if Ms McRae seriously meant that she wanted a whole transparent process in this place, then the motion immediately would have referred to all pieces of legislation that come to this place. But it does not. It talks about only the Executive, which I find really amazing.
Certainly, this Government is committed to broader consultation. We have said that time and time again, and we have put down very definitely a plan for how that consultation will take place. One of the first things we have to look at and realise is that consultation must be flexible and it must be appropriate to the particular issue that you are actually consulting on. Many times this sort of very structured approach would be totally counterproductive and would slow down the processes of this place terminally. I am sure that that is really what the motion is about. It really would not achieve what it set out to achieve.
As we have said, starting next month Ministers are going to have monthly visits to community centres, where we will be available to discuss openly issues of concern to the people of Canberra. We will be there to listen and to consult on a regular basis. It will be advertised so that people will know where they can come and talk to us. We have already expanded the role of the three consultative councils and are moving to reappoint the Women’s Consultative Council. That sort of fell off the edge under the previous Chief Minister. She did not reappoint the Women’s Consultative Council. We believe strongly that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultative Council, the Multicultural Consultative Council and the Women’s Consultative Council are really important in making sure that this Assembly has at its disposal information and feedback from various interest groups in the community.
What is important, though, is that these councils have a real job and are actually able to advise on policies and programs to meet the needs of the people whom they represent. We have put in place already - and I have been speaking to the councils on this - ways in which we can give them a real role and not just have them there because they look nice. I believe very strongly that that will be a big step in the right direction for those particular groups that have real needs.
The third part of our consultation process is to work much more closely with community councils and to give them a real role as part of our city government policy. We actually have it in writing in our city government policy statement. That will mean that community councils, right down there at grassroots, will be able to consult their communities on specific issues and feed that information back into the community. We have already spoken about our view that those sorts of community councils and so on should have an opportunity to address this Assembly. They can come here and tell us directly what they think at specific times. We hope that the Administration and Procedure Committee at some stage will look at those sorts of ideas that we have already floated. Those sorts of consultation approaches are flexible and will allow people to have real input into this Assembly, but at the same time they will not terminally slow down the way we operate here.