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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2834 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

Mr Speaker, the Bill I present today amends the Territory Owned Corporations Act 1990 to ensure that the government of the day consults with the committee responsible for the scrutiny of public accounts before appointing board members to Territory-owned corporations. We have had many debates in this place about the value of the Assembly's committee structure and the work that the committees do. The debate of 28 April of this year, which established the new and current committee structure, was replete with high-sounding notions of open and more accountable government. They were all very worthy. In fact, it was Mr Osborne who, in moving the motion, said that the new model "gives members the potential to scrutinise departments and Ministers to a far greater extent through specialist committees that follow a department and a Minister from day one".

I agree with Mr Osborne's sentiments and would simply add that scrutinising appointments to TOC boards is well within the realm of discharging that very duty. Indeed, it may be said that the real work of the Assembly is often conducted outside this particular chamber. The media would probably agree with that statement. We should never forget the tremendous importance of our committees when we consider the fact that we have a unicameral parliament and an electoral system that virtually guarantees minority government after every election.

Mr Speaker, I am a firm supporter of the role that committees play in the Assembly and will defend them against any attempt to limit their role or the ability to do their job properly. The great value of the committee structure is that a great portion of the partisanship which so dominates this chamber is removed in committee work, and it can be said that much more is accomplished with three or four MLAs sitting around a table than with 17 sitting around this particular chamber. My Bill, Mr Speaker, formally integrates the appointment of the TOC board members into the work of the Assembly committee structure, specifically the Chief Minister's Portfolio Committee, which incorporates the public accounts committee.

The legislation does not attempt to hold up appointments to boards. In fact, the legislation makes provision for the Government to appoint board members without consulting the committee, if the number of board members falls below that required by either the TOC's own articles of association or the Federal Corporations Law. In this respect, the legislation is sensible and realistic. The legislation does not bind the Government to any recommendation the committee makes. Again, the legislation is sensible, in that it recognises the legitimate right of shareholders to appoint board members as they see fit.

What this legislation does do is formalise a process whereby the shareholders - that is, the Government - consult with the committee about appointments to boards of TOCs before those appointments are made. Once the shareholders have presented the committee with a name or a list of names as possible appointees to TOC boards, the Government must not appoint a board member without first considering the committee's recommendations, as long as the recommendations are made by the committee within 30 days of the presentation of the possible board appointees.

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