Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3140 ..
MR KAINE (continuing):
establishing a precedent. I recall no precedent in the 10-year life of this place where a Minister has sat on a committee of any kind before. For somebody who approaches politics with somewhat of an academic bent as the Minister does, I find it quite strange that he would even propose such a thing. In this particular case, if the Minister really wants to know the figures, I am quite sure that he has access to public servants through the mechanisms of the Cabinet.
Mr Stanhope: He directs them.
MR KAINE: I am coming to that point in a minute. He is a member of the Cabinet, and the Cabinet can and does get information that it requires from public servants. Of course, the Office of Financial Management is very much a part of that and I am sure has already provided to the Cabinet all the information that it has available on this question. Why then does the Minister need to sit on this committee to have access to that information? The answer is that he does not. The other point, the one that Mr Stanhope just referred to, is that it is even worse in this case, because the Minister happens to be the Minister Assisting the Treasurer. That is one of his portfolios.
Mr Stanhope: Is he a shareholder of ACTEW?
MR KAINE: As a matter of interest, yes, he does happen to be a shareholder in ACTEW, one of the two voting shareholders. The Minister, first of all, already has access to all of the sources of information that exist, while we as simple members of this legislature do not have access to that information, unless the Government chooses to make it available to us. The Minister does have access by virtue of his privileged position. He also would have a conflict of interest both as the Minister with responsibility, through the Chief Minister, for budgetary and financial matters and as one of the two voting shareholders of ACTEW. Frankly, I think that it would be quite improper, as well as being an innovation in the experiment of self-government in this place, to have a Minister on a committee. It would be quite unusual. I agree with Ms Tucker. I think that the Minister ought to take some advice from somebody who has a good background in constitutional law as to whether or not it would be proper for him to take such a role. If he did that, he would have to seriously reconsider the notion that he can sit on such a committee.
MR QUINLAN (6.55): Firstly, let me record that I do not support the exclusion of the wider terms of reference. We will be looking at this question. We will need to take into account the overall impact of the sale of ACTEW in order to present a comprehensive answer to the ACT population. I do not agree with the amendments that would allow the Government to progress the sale and ignore the fact that there is a committee. I do appreciate hearing from Mr Osborne that he has just given his commitment to hold a decision until the committee reports. That is in Hansard. I can count around the place, so I know that we are not going to win a vote on Mr Osborne's amendments.
On Mr Humphries' nomination to the committee, we have just heard Mr Kaine. It was as if Mr Kaine was speaking from my hastily drafted speech notes. This does tend to make a mockery of the committee. It does tend to telegraph not just to this place but to the population of the ACT at large that the Government does not approach this in good faith.