Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (24 November) . . Page.. 2754 ..
MR HIRD (continuing):
It must be remembered, Mr Speaker, that the Select Committee on Estimates is appointed to examine the annual reports and financial reports of the various agencies. It is not the role of the committee, nor any of its individual members, to hold public servants within government agencies accountable for any of the reports before the committee. The committee has no right to launch an attack on public servants, as happened during its hearings and again in this report. If members of the committee want to attack Ministers, that is their prerogative. Ministers are the ones setting the policies and they are the ones who should be held accountable if committee members deem it necessary to question anyone's accountability. Ministers have an opportunity to answer or rebuff any accusations made against them. Public servants do not have that opportunity, and to attack them in the manner that they have been attacked in the committee's report is, in my opinion, a grossly unparliamentary act and an act that is bordering on cowardice.
As I have said in my dissenting report, Mr Speaker, the committee does not have the right to exceed the bounds of its brief to examine the annual and financial reports. during the hearings there were many instances of the committee exerting its terms of reference, sometimes to the point of hysteria on the part of some members of the committee. That right is infringed again in the committee's report. There are some instances, Mr Speaker, of the report ignoring evidence presented to the committee at its hearings. I suspect that is because the evidence was contrary to the personal view of some members of the committee.
I also make comment, Mr Speaker, on the questions raised in the committee's hearings and again in the committee's report on the role played in the parliament by our colleague the Minister for Health and Community Care, Mr Moore. Mr Moore made it quite clear to the parliament when he was appointed to the fifth ministry that there were certain issues outside his portfolio on which he would continue to maintain an independent stance, irrespective of the Cabinet's or, indeed, the Government's policies on these issues. Rather than questioning Mr Moore's motives, we should be commending him for his determination to represent the wishes of his constituents on the issues he was elected to represent them. Mr Speaker, a lesser Minister might have been prepared to abandon his independence in the interests of the Cabinet line.
Mr Speaker, I close by saying that I would like to thank the other members of the committee. We were set a difficult task and a very short timeframe. I would particularly like to thank Mr Bill Symington, the secretary of the Select Committee on Estimates. I would also like to pay tribute to the secretaries of the various standing committees, who also made quite a contribution. In that regard, Mr Speaker, there was a different approach by the Estimates Committee in involving the standing committees which mirror the portfolios. It is interesting to note that there was some criticism of the Chief Minister when she decided to establish standing committees mirroring the portfolios, but the fact is that the decision has turned out trumps. As the chairman indicated, it has been of great assistance to the Estimates Committee. The record speaks for itself. I think that the secretaries of the various standing committees are to be commended.
I also take the opportunity of thanking other staff, not forgetting the staff members of the various government departments and agencies, for their contributions and the professional way that they gave their all in their attendance at the committee's hearings.