Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 2704 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (3.45): Mr Speaker, in this debate the Chief Minister has already explained the arguments for not increasing the determination in respect of one particular member, and I do not propose to add greatly to those arguments. I will pose a question first of all. I see that Mr Kaine is otherwise engaged, so he cannot answer my question. As with so many of the motions that we encounter in recent days, it is a bit hard to tell whether this motion is actually advisory or directory to the Government - "that the Chief Minister make a new non-discriminatory determination". I think the Government would regard this as a directory motion, but I am open to persuasion as to different views from other members of the Assembly if they disagree with that.
So, Mr Speaker, what we have been presented with here is a motion instructing the Government, directing the Government, as the Assembly has the power to do, to make a new determination. I simply want to draw attention to the precedent that that sets in this place. There have, of course, been disputes over the last 10 or so years of self-government about levels of allocation to different members. The comments that Mr Corbell has made about the government of the day, the Executive, being vindictive with respect to its use of that power to set levels of staffing are not the first such remarks to have been made. They have been made, in fact, quite a few times in the past in respect of decisions made by executives on both sides of politics with respect to the way in which they have used that particular power.
Mr Corbell: They have never been focused on an individual before, though.
MR HUMPHRIES: Indeed, they have been focused quite expressly on individuals in the past, Mr Corbell. If you care to stay in the chamber, you will hear about those particular cases. But, of course, he chooses not to. Mr Speaker, the difficulty is that if we pass this motion today, however, we have done for the first time what has never happened before in respect of such disputes or such arguments about levels of staff allocation setting - - -
Mr Berry: That is because of your behaviour. We have never behaved like this before. Nobody has ever behaved like this.
MR HUMPHRIES: I think we have, Mr Berry. We have behaved like this before. I will come back to that in a moment. I will make my point in a minute about that. We are reacting to a government decision for the first time by directing the Government - as I say, I think this is a motion about direction - to make a new determination in a particular way.
Mr Speaker, I am not sure that there is any clear legal or constitutional precedent preventing the Assembly from doing that. I am not aware of any. I do not cite any in this debate. But, Mr Speaker, when such precedents are set, they do create good and bad opportunities. They create good paths and bad paths for future years by members of this Assembly. By that I mean that, although I oppose the motion here today, if the Assembly sees fit to pass it, it will be, I imagine, a very useful precedent to be used in the future.