Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (30 April) . . Page.. 270 ..
I will endeavour to answer the questions that have been posed, some in general terms. Certain of the specific queries would need more consideration than can be given in the time available and other matters, such as those relating to specific standing orders, will need procedural reviews by the Assembly if the proposal eventuates.
The advice I have set out below contains some significant queries concerning the public details of the proposal. It is given against the background of the ACT's current constitutional framework but it is also given with the realisation that the current arrangements are not immutable.
The proposal is not entirely without precedent. The Alliance Government in 1989 sought to establish a collegiate style Government with non-Ministers performing executive roles and this did have an effect on the operation of the Assembly.
The Assembly must be given the option to develop its practices and procedures so as to ensure there is good and representative government of the Territory. However, to change it in the way proposed within our current constitutional structure could have a significant impact on the Assembly's (including its committees') performance of responsibilities towards policy making and its role in scrutinising the Executive.
The Australian Capital Territory (Self Government) Act 1998 (Commonwealth) (the Self Government Act) sets the constitutional framework for the Territory. It establishes the Territory as a body politic under the Crown, makes provision for an Assembly and its constitution (including the provision it shall consist of 17 Members), procedures and powers. It also makes provision for the election of Members to the Assembly.
It is a parliamentary democracy as these Members are elected by the Territory community, are representative of the Territory community and are accountable to the Territory community every 3 years should they seek re-election. They are the Assembly and, by electing a Chief Minister (who in turn chooses an Executive from among them), they choose the Government of the Territory and, should they see fit, they may remove that Government and replace it with another. They are the community's representatives in not only choosing who shall govern the Territory but in initiating, vetting and legitimising the laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory, scrutinising the subordinate laws of the Territory and appraising and testing the Government's policy and administration.
The Self-Government Act also establishes the Australian Capital Territory Executive and provides that the Executive has the responsibility for governing the Territory with respect to a range of specified matters. It is the Executive that has the responsibility for governing the Territory, not the Assembly. The Members of the Executive are the Chief Minister and other Ministers appointed by the Chief Minister - their number is limited and they must be appointed from among 15 of the 17 Assembly Members (the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are ineligible).
The Self-Government Act provides that Ministers shall administer such matters "relating to the powers of the Executive as are allocated" by the Chief Minister and the particulars of these arrangements are known as the Administrative Arrangements. Ministers are not required to do this personally, as a Minister may by instrument delegate to a person all or any of his or her powers under an Act or a subordinate law. The Administration Act 1989 and the Public Sector Management Act 1994 deal with the delegation of ministerial powers or duties though I have not pursued this matter further. It is my understanding that it is not proposed to delegate any powers, other than the power to appoint members to the committees, to these committees or their chairs.