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MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) (Consequential Provisions) Bill 1995? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of the day No. 1 they may also address their remarks to order of the day No. 2.
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (4.18): Mr Speaker, the Labor Party members of the Assembly will not be opposing this Bill. The Bill establishes a framework for annual reporting for ACT Government Service agencies and sets a consistent reporting requirement for ACT public bodies. It also allows for the date by which reports should be tabled in the Legislative Assembly, and I will have more to say about that later. The Bill codifies the form and the content of the reports and it also provides a scheme of consolidation of reports. Mr Speaker, as I say, we will not be opposing the Bill. In fact, from my recollection, the Bill was being drafted at the time that I was in charge of such matters and I regret that it has been so much delayed.
There is one issue that I want to raise, Mr Speaker, as I indicated earlier, and that is the timing of annual reports. In discussion with my colleague Ms McRae, who is chairing the Estimates Committee, she raised with me the fact that the proposed three months deadline contained in the Bill is not compatible with the deliberative processes of the Estimates Committee. It allows them far too little time. It would be consistent with the reporting requirements set by this Assembly for the Estimates Committee if the timetable required were to be altered somewhat, and I will be moving amendments in order to achieve that. I think the amendments will enable the Estimates Committee to have annual reports available to them for consideration in the last week of September that is set down for the committee's hearings. As I say, Mr Speaker, we support the Bill, but I will be moving those amendments in the detail stage. I believe that those amendments will ensure that the Estimates Committee will have available to them the information that they need and in sufficient time to allow the Estimates Committee in turn to meet the timetable that has been set by this Assembly.
MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (4.20), in reply: As I indicated when I tabled the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) Bill 1995 and the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1995 on 22 June, they are critical administrative pieces of legislation which will provide a simple, streamlined and consistent annual report arrangement for ACT government agencies and public bodies. Subsequently, I have tabled a number of amendments to the Annual Reports (Government Agencies) (Consequential Provisions) Bill 1995. One relates to the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994. The other amendments are of a minor technical nature related to tidying up references to annual reporting under other legislation referred to in the consequential provisions Bill, and I will move those at the appropriate time in this debate.
Most importantly, these Bills will raise the level of accountability to the community and will encourage agencies to improve their level of service. In conjunction with new arrangements for financial accountability and reporting which I will be announcing in the context of the 1995-96 budget, they will greatly improve the level of accountability of chief executives by placing clear responsibilities for reporting with these officers.