Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2948 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
I do not have that facility, Mr Speaker. I look at a piece of legislation, not unlike my colleague Mr Rugendyke over here, and bells go off; but we do not have the capacity to digest it that quickly and to come up with an amendment which may make sense to us and to other people. We need help to do that and this Assembly has processes to enable us to get that help. One of those processes is the committee system, which I find particularly valuable. I do not consider these things a waste of time in helping me, and I do not consider these things a waste of time because people out there in the general public have an opportunity to say something to us face to face.
As I mentioned earlier, I received 103 pieces of correspondence which said, "Do not support the Bill". I received 95 pieces of correspondence which said, "Support the Bill". I got a stack of phone calls. No doubt my colleagues got similar sorts of figures and similar sorts of correspondence. How valuable would it be if everybody who did write to me was able to come and speak for 10 or 15 minutes to the whole lot of us sitting together? How valuable would it be for them to be able to come and have their say instead of having to commit their views to writing and maybe get it read or maybe not? If they come and speak to us while we are sitting in an Assembly committee we have no choice but to listen to them, no choice but to digest what they say, and no choice but to respond. It is my view, Mr Speaker, that that is a particularly effective element in the democratic process.
Mr Moore stood there and said that he is prepared to have this raft of amendments considered and voted on but he is not prepared to let us have them scrutinised in an open forum. In my view that is a denial of opportunity to those very people, and I am staggered that Mr Moore would take this position. I am also staggered, Mr Speaker, that he is not here, because he normally is. I was going to eyeball him because he disappoints me. One of the beauties of the committee inquiry system is that it allows ordinary people, general members of the public, it allows experts in the various fields of law, medicine and any other related discipline for that matter, and those of us who are fortunate or unfortunate enough to be elected to this place and represent them, to see these arguments put side by side at the same time.
When I was looking at this matter things seemed to come in waves. I would get a surge and something would hit me in the face. I would think, "That is right; that is fine; I will go down that way". Then, a matter of minutes later, or hours or days later, whack, another one would come along and I would think, "That one is right and the other one is wrong". What I would have given, Mr Speaker, to have had time out and to have somebody say, "There is A, there is B. That is the difference between the two". Then I would have been made able to make, I believe, a much more considered judgment. Mr Moore denies me that opportunity.
Mr Humphries may very well be right. The position that I hold at the moment may very well not change, but, Mr Speaker, there are people in the gallery at the moment who I have not spoken to and maybe I would have liked to have had the opportunity to do that. There are people in the gallery tonight who, judging by their presence all day, would give their right arm to be able to say something to a select committee. They are being denied the opportunity to do that, and I think it is disgraceful.