Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2312 ..
MRS CARNELL (continuing):
the Supreme Court. The Bill does not apply to the current judges in that capacity because, as well as being judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, the current judges are also judges of the Federal Court of Australia. As such, they are covered by some special provisions in Commonwealth law. The effect of these special provisions is that the current judges must be remunerated on the same basis as other Federal Court judges. The Bill will, however, apply to any future judges of the Supreme Court who do not hold appointments as Federal Court judges.
I turn now to outline briefly the provisions of the Bill. The new tribunal can have up to three members, serving for a term of up to five years. The Bill contemplates specifically that the tribunal may consist of only one member, and, indeed, the Government is inclined at this early stage to make one initial appointment only, on a part-time basis. The Northern Territory Remuneration Tribunal operates under a similar model and has functioned for nearly 15 years without ever having more than one member. The Government is confident that the remuneration process established by this Bill will work with a minimum of fuss and at an appropriately small cost to the taxpayer. In this regard, the Bill provides for the tribunal to enter into arrangements with my department for the provision of support services.
The Bill also requires the Chief Minister to table the tribunal's determinations in the Legislative Assembly within six sitting days of receiving them. It does not provide for those determinations to be disallowable. There are several reasons for this. The first is that decisions of an arbitral nature made by other independent bodies such as courts and tribunals are generally not disallowable. Bodies such as these are established specifically to be independent of bureaucratic and political processes, not to be subject to them. Their decisions can always be overridden by legislation in extreme circumstances. The second and related reason is that the power of disallowance is in itself political. "No time is a good time for a politician's pay rise" - I think we all know that in this place - has been the catchcry. This truism is just as applicable to other senior office-holders. Under this Bill we are proposing a genuinely independent Remuneration Tribunal, not a body to make recommendations on remuneration to the Assembly. We should accept the umpire's decision as to what is a fair thing.
Lastly, Mr Speaker, I should explain the procedure of the tribunal itself. Consistent with the simplicity of the model we have adopted, the Bill allows the tribunal to inform itself in any manner it thinks fit and to determine its own procedure. The tribunal will not be bound by the rules of evidence. We anticipate that it will advertise for written submissions when reviewing the remuneration of office-holders, but it will not be bound to do so. The tribunal will have access to the advice of specialist remuneration consultants but will not be bound to seek such advice. These are all matters for the tribunal to determine for itself.
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, this Bill marks a small but significant step in the evolution of a distinctive and suitably simple model of government for the ACT. I believe it will serve the Territory well. I commend the Bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Ms Follett) adjourned.