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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 33 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

While the ALP has well over a century of history and experience, this does not mean that we can stop learning. We have certainly learnt from our poor showing at this year's election. To the people of Canberra, I offer my personal apology. We did drop the ball; we failed in our primary goal. That goal was to offer an acceptable political choice, not simply in terms of a choice between Labor and Liberal but a real choice by presenting ourselves as an alternative government. We will not fail again and we will not allow personality-based politics to deflect us from our presentation of policies and initiatives to the people. We failed also to bring gender balance to this Assembly; and be assured that the party is already reviewing that real problem. Already the signs are good; the future is shaping up much brighter for the Labor Party in Canberra; and part of that brighter future is the sense of optimism and confidence within our own Assembly Caucus.

Mr Speaker, I am very conscious of my particular responsibilities as shadow Treasurer. It looks like a very interesting job and one that I look forward to. From the outside, if you listen to the rhetoric that has emanated from this place, an old accountant like me might be tempted to believe that he has entered accrual accounting utopia. I have heard that people come from far and wide to observe how we do things around here. I have to say that I quite relish the thought of bursting a bubble or two, because I have already encountered a couple of misuses of the process at the political level; and it is nice to know that one has a job to do.

Mr Speaker, much has been said in and of this place with regard to adversarial politics. I have to observe that at times the piety and breastbeating associated with condemnation of an adversarial approach has been quite obviously contrived. As we contemplate our role here, we have been encouraged by the recognition of the legitimate functions of an opposition in the recently published Pettit report. This should go part of the way towards the general acceptance that adversarial politics is a necessary part of the process of government under the Westminster system. I would like to make the point that I view adversarial politics as extending beyond adopting a negative approach to proposals and initiatives. It is wider than the opposition gainsaying the government; it can also be engendered through ostentatious and consistent self-congratulation by government or by selected and exaggerated claims of government achievement - claims that simply scream out for a response that must be of a negative dimension. It can also be engendered by the introduction of controversial items designed more to confer notoriety on the proposal than to give the ACT good law.

Mr Speaker, we will be adversarial if that is what is called for at the time. However, along with others in the ALP, I intend to focus on positive outcomes and a cooperative approach where possible. I invite the whole of the Assembly to join with the ALP in its enlightened approach. In my limited time in this place I have observed several initiatives taken in the name of a cooperative approach to government. I am yet to be convinced that any genuinely had that noble aim. I have observed the odd devious yet transparent artifice, and I have to make the point that the low-water mark is fairly low after the Government's personalised election campaign. Conversely, at the personal level, I have been very pleasantly surprised at the friendly and civil atmosphere that pervades this Assembly. It is refreshing to know that much of the apparent tension between members is often for external consumption only. Your staff, Mr Speaker, are to be roundly congratulated on the friendly and efficient way that they have facilitated the commencement of the new Assembly and have bedded in the new staff.

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