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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3228 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

The definition is very broad, Mr Speaker, and deliberately so, because the committee process is the only thorough opportunity that this Assembly has to scrutinise the activities of the Executive in whatever form they may take. The Government may feel uncomfortable with that. The Government may feel that that is something that they would really rather not happen. But that is just bad luck. That is why parliaments exist. Perhaps the Chief Minister should think about that before she starts citing herself as perhaps some expert on parliamentary history and procedure, as she does on other matters such as economics.

Mr Speaker, the final point I want to make is that the Government's response to this report was disappointing, for many reasons. The most disappointing one was that the Government's response did not address in detail the many serious concerns that the committee raised about the accountability of public administration in Canberra. Instead, its response was to say, "It is time to change the system". That is what the Chief Minister said when the Government first responded, when the report was tabled, and here in her written comments. I notice that she backs away from that, because it was obviously a silly comment at the time. But she still says that maybe there is another way of doing it.

Mr Speaker, I think that all of us in this place are always open to looking at different ways by which the Assembly can conduct its business in a more effective way; but to simply suggest that the way to do that is to change the system because you disagree with it, because you disagree with the outcomes it produces, ranks as an act which belongs to absolute governments, in places where they have a majority, in single-chamber parliaments - Queensland being a very good example.

So perhaps those are things that the Chief Minister should have reflected on in her response and then we might have got a better response to this select committee report. But, as my chairman, Mr Berry, points out, there is still at least some attempt to address the range of very serious issues that have been raised. On a number of them we have got agreement. That shows that the system is working, and working effectively, Mr Speaker.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (3.55): I wish to speak very briefly on a couple of issues, because I have not really had time to flick through the entire report. I rise with some concern at the Government's response to recommendation 6 - a recommendation and a response touched on by my colleague Mr Corbell - in terms of the responsibility of officers of the Public Service appearing before committees. I think it was a very serious recommendation which the committee made in relation to the role and responsibility of departmental officers appearing before committees. There were some instances of evidence given by senior members of the Public Service that was quite clearly unsatisfactory.

Ms Carnell: I do not agree with you.

MR STANHOPE: The Chief Minister says that she does not agree. Where there are shortcomings within the Public Service - and I have to say that I think we all have enormous respect for the ACT Public Service and ACT public servants - it is reasonable for a committee such as the Estimates Committee to raise questions of its concern about

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