Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (30 April) . . Page.. 269 ..
APPENDIX 1: Incorporated in Hansard on 28 April 1998 at page 53
Members have sought my advice concerning the recently announced proposal by the Chief Minister to establish a system of executive committees as part of a move towards a more co-operative approach to Government in the Australian Capital Territory. The committees would "deal with a number of key issues relating to the future of the ACT", would be chaired by members of the cross benches in the Assembly and would report directly to Cabinet as well as the Assembly. The committee chairs will participate in Cabinet discussions of their recommendations, will be able to appoint committee members from outside the Assembly and will be supported by staff from the ACT Public Service.
It is understood from the Chief Minister's press release (see Attachment 1) that final details of their operation will be subject to further discussion but at this stage three committees are proposed:
* Executive Committee on Information Technology and Multimedia, chaired by the Independent MLA Michael Moore. To recommend action to enhance Canberra's status as a 'clever city' and to ensure that the ACT remains at the forefront of technological change.
* Executive Committee on Government Reform, chaired by Independent MLA Paul Osborne. To propose changes to the form of government in the ACT, taking particular account of the recommendations of the Pettit Inquiry, which is due to report at the end of April.
* Executive Committee on Environmental Industries, chaired by Greens MLA Kerrie Tucker. To develop sustainable technology and environmental industries in general in the ACT, with a view to enhancing Canberra's reputation as a world-class centre for environmental technology.1
It is reported that committee chairs may get a vote in Cabinet and may be allocated an extra $10,000 for staff for their offices (presumably personal staff). It has also been reported that steps may be taken to allocate extra payment to the Chairs (see Attachments 2 and 3).
A significant review under the chairmanship of Professor Pettit on the governance of the territory with respect to the operations and organisation of both the legislature and executive is due to report later this month, and latest press reports indicate that two of the proposed executive committee chairs prefer to wait until Professor Pettit has presented his report.
Members have sought advice on a number of specific matters in relation to the proposal. Central to their concerns are the following issues:
* the effect on the checks and balances inherent in a "Westminster style" system of parliamentary democracy;
* the implications for the current Assembly committee system and its effectiveness;
* would the chairs of the proposed executive committees become de facto members of the executive; and
* the likely impact on the role of Members who become chairs or members of the proposed executive committees.
1 Press release, dated 26 March 1998