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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 43 ..

Mr Corbell: Mr Speaker, there is no point of order. Mr Osborne is using the opportunity to debate the issue.

MR SPEAKER: I uphold Mr Corbell's comments.

MR BERRY: The Executive are committed to the committee process they are most comfortable with, and we need to raise questions about that. Traditionally, in the Westminster system committees have been a tool of the parliament, not a tool of the Executive. Their purpose is to scrutinise the Executive and the Public Service, to ensure that the parliament maintains its supremacy over the Executive in respect of their management of the Government and the Public Service.

For us to sit idly by and ignore the important precedent which is being set by the Government would be to do the parliamentary system under which we operate a disservice. It is quite inappropriate for the Executive to propose a system of committees and press for the imposition of that system on the parliamentary system. Any change ought to have been born out of the Assembly. One wonders why the Government's own backbench members, Liberal members, were not involved as members of the parliament in developing the proposed system. I will tell you why. This arrangement is something that the Executive is comfortable with.

The proposed committees are born out of the raw politics of the Legislative Assembly and the need for the Government to maintain an element of control over arrangements which will exist in this place. I note that at the meeting where these standing committees were first proposed the Chief Minister indicated that she would be happy to put forward to the Remuneration Tribunal a proposal that the chairs of these committees receive a larger allowance. That would be based on the committees having larger responsibilities. The first few weeks of the new Legislative Assembly have been dogged by a passionate interest in increased income. It strikes me that there has been a rather crude focus on increasing income instead of on our duty as committee members to serve the people who elected us.

I do not recall anybody in the last Assembly or in recent Assemblies criticising the committee system. It strikes me as rather strange that all of a sudden we need a completely changed arrangement which focuses on committees shadowing Ministers. The most obscene thing has been the Government's approach to the Pettit report. So much weight has been placed on the Pettit report that I understand that in a short time the Government will move a motion establishing a committee of inquiry to examine the Pettit report and the implementation of the recommendations of that report. Yet the Government and Mr Osborne support the establishment of these committees, the end of the Public Accounts Committee and the Scrutiny of Bills Committee and a changed emphasis on the committee structure as a whole, without having first heard the outcome of the committee that will examine the Pettit report. Is that not strange? They do so for good reason. We are going through the charade of establishing a select committee to look at a whole range of issues except for a couple, the most important being the restructuring of committees.

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