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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 5 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1242 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

Yesterday in the Assembly I drew attention to an omission by Mr Humphries to consult the committee at all. Mr Humphries in fact made appointments to the ACT Tenancy Tribunal and the ACT Credit Tribunal without the necessary consultation with the Legal Affairs Committee. Mr Humphries of course drew that to the attention of the committee, and quite rightly; but there is no doubt that he was in breach of the Statutory Appointments Act in not having made that consultation. Mr Humphries also drew the committee's attention to the fact that the instruments of appointment are disallowable by virtue of section 10 of the Subordinate Laws Act. However, I think the spirit of the Statutory Appointments Act requires that consultation take place before the event, not for the Assembly simply to have the power of veto via a disallowable instrument. Again, I think that was very regrettable.

In some other cases, the committee concerned has simply had insufficient time allowed by the Government to make any sort of realistic assessment of the appointments that are being proposed. In the case of another very important position, the Victims of Crime Coordinator, a position under the Victims of Crime Act 1994, I received advice of the appointment on 29 February and was asked to respond by 1 March. I do not think that is a realistic timeframe for anybody to make a genuine assessment of that proposed appointment. There is another case. Unfortunately, it is, again, from Mr Humphries. There was a range of appointments - Mr McEwan, Ms Proctor, Mr Bayliss, Ms Tonkin, Ms Mendes and so on - where the advice of the proposed appointments was received by me on 6 May. It was actually prepared in the Secretariat on 3 May, but we were asked for our opinions by noon on 7 May. That was not even 24 hours that I had available to me to make an assessment. In fact, the appointments to those particular bodies had expired anyway, on 4 May; so the whole process was taking place very much after the event.

In moving this amendment, I am concerned to give the Assembly committees a realistic and genuine opportunity for true consultation to take place; that is, for those committees to express a view, as requested by the Government and as enacted by this Assembly. I think it is unfortunate that, because there has been such a delay in the request for consultation and the request for endorsement of appointments, the committees in many ways do run the risk of being seen to be critical or being seen not to endorse the Government's recommendations. That is certainly not my intention. As far as I am concerned, the Government has the right to appoint the people that it thinks are best fitted for those statutory positions. I would exercise a veto or express some opposition only if I felt that the appointment was in some way political or was in some way quite inappropriate. Otherwise, as far as I am concerned, it is up to the Government. Nevertheless, the Assembly has asked that this consultation process occur. I would never want it to be the case that that consultation process appeared to be criticising people who have genuinely offered their services, often in a voluntary capacity, to advise the Government. I do not believe that it is appropriate for the Assembly committees to take on that role as some kind of watchdog. I genuinely admire people who make their services available in the way that so many of these statutory appointees do.

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