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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 89 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

as it had such matters under examination. Similar cases may arise in the future.

Here is the crunch part:

There is also scope for a more general policy of referring certain Auditor-General reports to other standing committees.

This is the very point that Professor Pettit has made in his recent report - that there is no reason why you need to have a single committee dealing all the time with one particular activity called public accounts when it is possible that another committee with a broader function might take that role, or even that a number of committees might take that role. That latter part of the suggestion is not what Mr Osborne's motion has called for, incidentally; but it certainly is a suggestion which has been put forward. Indeed, it was being put forward by this member of the chamber at that time. I will read further from the speech that he gave:

While the Public Accounts Committee in the next Assembly will need to retain its function of auditing the accountability of agencies, it may see overall benefit for the Assembly in involving other committees, as appropriate, in reviewing the Auditor-General's reports which deal with matters falling within the direct ambit of those committees.

For example, if you had an Auditor-General's report on nursing you might refer that to a committee on health. It would make sense, would it not, for a committee on health to look at an Auditor-General's report on nursing? With great respect, what expertise does a public accounts committee have on health-related issues, on the operations of the hospitals or on nursing specifically? I would argue that it has very little or none. Mr Speaker, who was this member who was making these supportive statements? It was Mr Whitecross, then the chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr Hird: Was he leader or deputy then?

MR HUMPHRIES: I forget. There was such a revolving door over there that it was a bit hard to tell who was the leader at that stage. Mr Speaker, he was the chair of the Public Accounts Committee and he made it clear that he saw scope for change in the committee structure of the Assembly.

On this score the people over there are being extremely conservative. They say that what we have always done we must continue to do, with no change. The conservatives over there are saying that we cannot afford to depart from this model. Their lack of vision about how we can improve the form of government that we deliver to the people of this Territory is very disappointing. It is much at odds with Mr Stanhope's expressed desire not only to be part of the debate for change but to actually lead it by chairing a select committee in this area. So far I have yet to see even the faintest glimmer of a willingness on the part of the Labor Party to embrace some sort of change, to believe that change is actually good, to reinvigorate the nature of democracy in the ACT.

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