Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 102 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Mr Speaker, I would urge members very strongly to retain the power of self-referral. Self-referral guarantees the true independence of our committee structure and does not make committees hostage to the wishes of a coalition in this place.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (5.02): Mr Speaker, I have no particular objection to the amendment that Mr Corbell has moved. I note that Professor Pettit has recommended a different approach towards self-referral. However, I think, in the interests of compromise, that it would be appropriate if we were to continue to self-refer, at least until the select committee that we have all foreshadowed in this debate has had a chance to report. The Liberal Party supports the amendment which has been put forward.
MR WOOD (5.03): Mr Speaker, I think the Assembly thanks Mr Humphries for that approach. I was going to ask a question rather than make a speech. You test my memory. My memory is that when this Assembly first sat in 1989 the committees did not have the power of self-referral. It was a combination of Michael Moore, the Liberals, the Residents Rally and others that gave the committees that right. As the committee that looks at the Pettit report might do, we should ask the question: Where has that gone wrong? Where are the issues? Where are the subjects that have been discussed? Why should we want to change that? I can think of nothing. I can think of no gripes from the former Labor Government or the current and last Liberal governments to indicate that there was a problem with that. I think Mr Humphries's approach is a good one, a sensible one, and we should thank him for it.
MS TUCKER (5.03): I want to offer my support for Mr Corbell's amendment. One of the things that I found quite interesting in the report was the comment that we run the risk of turning committees into sideshows. I have not seen that happen in the three years that I have been here. What I have seen happen is that certain members, because of their particular political viewpoint, have tried to denigrate the work of some committees and the nature of their inquiries. That is fine in the political process, so long as committees, as Mr Corbell pointed out, have that right to self-refer because, in fact, that political viewpoint, which might see one thing as not important or a sideshow, is all it is; it is a political viewpoint. We need to be able to have that discussion in committees and to have that right of self-referral. So I think it is another really important principle that we have to at least allow this select committee to look at. It sounds as though members are supportive of it anyway. I repeat that I still do not know what else in this Pettit report is a fait accompli and which things we will be able to look at. There are a lot of things in this report that I have concerns about. I am only finding out in a totally ad hoc way which things certain members here - the coalition, as the Opposition is calling it at this point - agree to. It is a totally closed process, and I want to put on the record that I object.
MR BERRY (5.05): Mr Moore was right when he said that this was a fundamentally flawed process, but it will be made better if this is rammed through with Mr Corbell's amendment incorporated. The exclusion of the right to self-refer would have removed any chance of the checks and balances being implemented on many issues. Mr Speaker, it is a welcome change that members have realised that this is an important issue, though the committee process, as it was proposed, has been bucketed from start to finish for many, many months.