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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2253 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I think the case of the chief executive officer is a little bit different. That is a person who from time to time will hold that office in the Department of Education. That person will not always be able to go to board meetings, by the very nature of the department. There is nothing strange or devious or nothing to be read between the lines here. That person will need to have someone attend. It is somewhat more difficult for a department to have any one particular named individual attend. I see the change in this Bill as a sensible amendment that will assist the department to have someone represent it. If the chief executive officer cannot attend, his or her proxy can attend. Naturally, the chief executive would attempt to get there as often as possible. There is nothing strange or suspicious in that. It is merely a matter of greater convenience and, I would say, commonsense. I think that is an important point to make. Mr Berry mentioned that he is opposing clause 7(b) and several other clauses related to that particular provision.

There are a number of important things in this Bill. The amendment regarding the definition of an educational institution is important. It expands the definition in the Act to include the CIT. As members are aware, the CIT delivers Year 11 and Year 12 courses for mature-age students. Allowing the board to accredit or register those courses adds a very valuable dimension to the range of course options covered by the board. This strengthens the role of the board. It enhances its capacity to ensure that a broad range of courses are offered to Year 11 and Year 12 students.

The current organisation of the BSSS is something new to the ACT. This amendment tightens the responsibility of board members to disclose pecuniary interests. That is a reflection of the commitment to getting these new arrangements right, as is indeed the finetuning in relation to the delegate of the chief executive officer.

I would commend these amendments to the Assembly and I would stress that it is certainly this Government's intention - we introduced the legislation last year, after all - that the BSSS have its independence. That is why it is a statutory body. That is absolutely essential. Quite clearly, that Act gives it more independence than it ever had in the past. It removes it from government. These amendments are commonsense amendments which will assist in the smooth running of the board. It is certainly the intention of this Government that these amendments in no way take away the independence of the board or take away the requirement for the department to action decisions of the board. Only in late January the chief executive of the department wrote to the chair of the board, Dr Cornish, assuring him of that fact and making arrangements to welcome anything the board would put before the department. I reiterate the commitment of the Government and the department to maintaining the independence of the board, actioning decisions taken by the board and putting at the board's disposal the resources of the department, as required, to implement the decisions of the board.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

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