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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 54 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

Mr Moore's main argument was that we will have five separate scrutiny committees and five separate public accounts committees. In fact, that argument says it all. That argument is one that we are giving, because that argument says that the intensity of the work of those committees is going to be dissipated, to be spread, and that it will not be enhanced, that it will be diminished. There will not be concentrated attention, not just to the particular issues coming before those five committees, but to the general issues that apply, the principles that each of those committees follows. There will be no further development of the principles behind those committees. I think that is a great disappointment.

These two committees to which I give most attention are key committees. There is a long record in parliaments across Australia of incorporating these committees into their activities. The two previous speakers, for example, have mentioned Queensland. I can speak well for the system that applied in Queensland at one time. The public accounts committees and the scrutiny of Bills committees are not longstanding committees in the history of our parliaments.

Mr Moore: Did you serve on the Queensland committees?

MR WOOD: There were no parliamentary committees in Queensland, Mr Moore. There were committees behind closed doors somewhere, no doubt. Parliaments have fought hard to get these specialist committees and now we are giving them up. I think it is very unfortunate. I said before that the committees have a general role. There are important principles that each of them maintains. For example, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee looks at the rights of citizens and their civil liberties. It looks at and defends the right of the Assembly - take note, Executive members - against the dominance of the Executive. They are continuing issues that emerge as we consider the Bills and the issues that come before us when we are on those committees. They cannot be dealt with in the same depth and with the same breadth of knowledge by the five different committees that Mr Moore spoke about.

It is an interesting point, although I would never claim it as a binding point, that the PAC and the Scrutiny of Bills Committee are the only committees of this Assembly that are referred to in our legislation. There is also a reference that I think is deemed to be to the Administration and Procedure Committee. They are the only committees referred to in legislation. That is an interesting point. It has been written down on what we have passed. Think about that.

Mr Moore: The Planning Committee is referred to in legislation.

MR WOOD: The Planning and Environment Committee is, too. I take your point, Mr Moore. This coalition proposal - and that is what it is; it is a broad coalition proposal now - will not provide the level of attention and the quality of scrutiny that are demanded. I have had the privilege of attending conferences of members of each of those committees from all the parliaments of Australia. I scratched my head, I have to say, at the outset over how interesting they would be. I went to a conference in Adelaide of members of scrutiny of Bills committees, I think it was last year - Mr Hird was there - and I had my doubts about it; but it was an education to me, as was a meeting in Sydney of PAC chairmen, I think, in that instance.

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