Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 11 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3328 ..
Debate resumed from 15 May 1996, on motion by Ms Follett:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (10.31): Mr Speaker, the Government does not oppose this piece of legislation. What the legislation does, in effect, is to provide for longer lead times between the initiation of consultation with Assembly committees and the making of a decision pursuant to that consultation. The proposal is that the period that shall elapse between the initiation of the consultation and the making of the decision should be 30 days or that the decision may be made upon receipt of a recommendation from the committee concerned, if that occurs first.
Mr Speaker, in her presentation speech on this Bill Ms Follett made reference to a number of situations where the lead time between the consultation with the particular committee of the Assembly and the announcement of the decision had been very short.
Ms Follett: Or retrospective.
MR HUMPHRIES: Or retrospective perhaps, in some circumstances. Mr Speaker, I acknowledge that that kind of delay or that lack of promptness in being able to effect consultation with Assembly committees is a matter of some concern. Ms Follett should not imagine that I have ever been happy in having to ask the committee to respond to me in a very short space of time. It is a matter of considerable regret, an occasion for the banging of fists on tables and pointing to people and saying, "This will not happen again"; but it has not seemed to make much difference. Ms Follett's amendment should deal with that problem in a legislative way. From now on the only delays, I imagine, will be short periods of time between Ministers having to sign off appointments and having to get them to the committees in time for the 30-day period to start to roll.
Mr Speaker, there are some potential dangers with the legislation. One of those is that appointments sometimes need to be made quite quickly, and even with the best endeavours of a government it is not possible to make them quickly enough to be able to satisfy this requirement if a full 30 days is required. However, I acknowledge that in those circumstances it will usually be possible to go to a committee and say, "This appointment is urgent because X has resigned suddenly".
Mr Wood: You do that now.
MR HUMPHRIES: Indeed, we do that now. It usually will be possible to say, "We need this to be considered urgently. Would you be kind enough to look at this in the next couple of days or whatever?". I think we can overcome those sorts of problems in those circumstances. If a committee were inclined to be obstructionist about this kind of thing there could be a problem, but I can say, I think with some conscience, that there has been no obstructionism by the Assembly at all as far as the operation of this legislation is concerned up until now. Committees have behaved well in respect of those things.