Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 96 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
This Government is hell-bent on replacing a bona fide Opposition with a committee system which it can control through the apportioning of workload. The effect of this is to shrink the effectiveness of opposition to the Government's agenda. It is shrinkage by workload. The question must be asked, "Why does the Government want to change the system?". Is it because the Government is afraid that its inefficiencies will be exposed? Is it because the Government wants to be obstructive and not consultative, and what does it want to hide? It is imperative that the Assembly have within its structure a series of independent umpires. PACs and scrutiny of Bills committees made up of a combination of Assembly members provide those independent umpires.
Mr Speaker, we on this side of the chamber are keen on open government. It would appear that we are keener on this concept than our colleagues opposite are. In examining the construction of the proposed committees I notice that there is a lack of appropriate attention to the vital issues of women's affairs and multiculturalism. An examination of the original motion reveals glaring holes in this area. Women's issues have been consigned to each portfolio responsibility under the catch-all of "any other matter under the responsibility of the portfolio Minister". This is just not good enough. Members opposite skite frequently that they are all for promoting the unique women's issues; yet they consign the issues to the "any other matter" rubbish bin.
The same goes for multiculturalism. This most important issue is referred to in the subparagraph relating to the Chief Minister's Portfolio Committee only as "arts and cultural services". There is no real commitment to promoting this issue at all. Where is the reference to indigenous affairs? It does not exist, which, I might say, is reflective of the Government's commitment to indigenous people. At least the Social Policy Committee, under the existing structure, addressed these issues as part of its wide-ranging charter and its ability to self-refer, which is also something which it is proposed be removed.
Mr Speaker, these proposals are ill thought out. They do not further the quality of service, debate or examination of the effectiveness of the services government delivers. I support Mr Berry's amendments on the basis that he is quite rightly trying to correct an anomaly. There is a distinct lack of accountability in the proposed system. A watering down of PAC and Scrutiny of Bills Committee work is a watering down of the watchdog roles these committees have. As they say in the classics, "Who guards the guards while the guards are guarding Rome?". In the case of governance of the ACT, the answer is no-one.
MR QUINLAN (4.41): Mr Speaker, I do not wish to belabour the points much further, because I think they have been fairly well articulated by this side of the house. I just want to pick up something that Mr Moore, of the newly formed Liber-Moore coalition, introduced into the debate earlier. I spent a bit of time preparing my speech for this morning. Mr Moore made some comment about our promise for cooperation and referred to the fact that we might not be honouring it. Let me read into Hansard again two parts of my speech: