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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 100 ..

Question put:

That Mr Berry's amendments (3) and (4) be agreed to.

Question resolved in the negative.

MR CORBELL (4.56): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to move the amendment circulated in my name.

Leave granted.


Paragraph (1), omit ", after the Assembly's endorsement".

Mr Speaker, I move this amendment this evening because Mr Osborne's motion deletes from the operation of committees of the Assembly a very important practice and principle which we have maintained in this Assembly for some time, and that is the practice and principle of allowing committees to self-refer matters. This is an important power that committees should have because it ensures that the operation of committees is independent of the power of any particular group or coalition in this Assembly to dictate what business an Assembly committee can investigate.

There is no doubt that Assembly committees are one of the most effective tools of our legislature. They provide our legislature with the ability to investigate, to inquire into and to report on matters of significant concern to the community - often matters which a government or other majority groupings in this place may find uncomfortable, or matters which a government would rather not have investigated. An Assembly committee, through the power of self-referral, allows members to look at issues in some detail, with the assistance of all the resources that the Assembly can provide, and to bring down a report directly to all members of this place on what they believe should be the response to the matter of concern.

The history of self-referral by committees in the ACT Assembly has been significant. Some of the most important reports that have been placed before this Assembly have been through self-referral. Ms Tucker's committee in the last Assembly looked at a significant range of issues in the social policy area which the Government found extremely uncomfortable. It did not really want those issues examined in any way, but through the power of self-referral that committee was able to determine what issues should be considered and was able to go in and look at them in critical detail to ensure that this Assembly was presented with a fair, honest and open investigation of a matter of concern.

Mr Osborne's motion currently proposes that approval for an Assembly committee to inquire into an issue can be obtained only from the Assembly itself. Matters can be referred to it only by the Assembly, or at the prompting of the committee with the approval of the Assembly. That, as I have said, greatly restricts our ability to act with independence as members on a committee because, let us face it, when it comes down to it, a significant majority in this place can block any attempt for any other independent investigation in the committee process.

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