Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 2865 ..
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (12.12): Mr Speaker, I move amendment No. 2 which has been circulated in my name on the pink sheet. It reads:
Page 5, line 19, after proposed section 28A insert the following section:
"Effect of contracts on responsibilities of Ministers
"28AB. Nothing in a contract under section 28 shall be taken to derogate in any way from the responsibility of the Minister administering an administrative unit for -
(a) the policies developed or applied by the administrative unit; or
(b) the financial and other performance of the administrative unit.".
This is an amendment that also was canvassed in the Public Accounts Committee's report on the Government's legislation. The effect of this amendment is to ensure that the buck stops with the Minister; that, in the Government's haste to put their chief executive officers on performance contracts, they are not allowed the luxury of then blaming those chief executive officers for anything that goes wrong, or holding those chief executive officers responsible for performance, when it ought to be the Minister who is held responsible for performance.
I think this is a commonsense precaution that the Assembly ought to be taking to make it very clear that the Minister is the person responsible and accountable for what occurs within their portfolio. I do not believe that this weakens in any way the effect of performance contracts, if that is what the Government wants to have; but it seems to me necessary, with this Government, to ensure that Ministers do retain their proper role under a parliamentary system, and that role encompasses full accountability and responsibility.
It has been the case over and over, since Mrs Carnell came to government, that this Government has tried to palm off responsibility for any number of actions to other people or other organisations. Mr Speaker, we have seen that occur time and time again. It has been made very clear that Ministers are trying to duck their responsibility. Half the time they blame the previous Government; they blame the current Opposition; they blame some group or some administrative entity for matters that - - -
Mr Connolly: Or Paul Osborne for sacking the doctors.
MS FOLLETT: Or they blame Mr Osborne, indeed, for their own decisions in relation to health care centres. It seems to me that this amendment is necessary, Mr Speaker, in order to ensure that under the contract arrangements, which the Assembly has now voted on and I accept will be occurring, Ministers do accept the proper and accountable role that a parliamentary system imposes on them. I commend this amendment to the Assembly.