Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (17 February) . . Page.. 267 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
scrutiny process in relation to GBEs than it is in relation to some of the other appointments covered by the Statutory Appointments Act. I commend the Bill to the Assembly and I urge members to support it.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (5.44): Mr Corbell has quoted remarks members made during the debate in 1994 on the Statutory Appointments Bill. Mr Speaker, I do not resile from one jot of what I said in 1994 about statutory appointments. Until that point appointments by government had been by a jealously guarded, almost secret process and members of the Assembly were lucky to find out about them even ex post facto, much less be consulted about them before they actually occurred. The Statutory Appointments Act was a big step towards openness and accountability on the part of government. My party supported that Act from day one and still does. It sees it as an important process for resolving possible problems about appointments. People can see appointments before they actually hit the deck, and a chance for feedback is possible.
I direct my remarks particularly at the crossbenches here. The question was raised by Mr Corbell: "Why are these GBEs different?". The answer is that they are businesses, and the people who sit on their boards are often highly paid professional business company directors who have a number of other directorships elsewhere. They are recruited to GBEs expressly for their business experience and their acumen. Do not forget that they are not people familiar with the ins and outs of the processes on the floor of this place. Imagine for a minute that we were to attract a highly respected business executive, a company director, to serve on a Territory owned corporation and that person, who might come from Sydney or Melbourne or somewhere else, was told, "You are going to have to have your name submitted to a parliamentary committee for its consideration before the appointment can be made". I have no doubt that some such people may say, "I am happy to be appointed to a government business to assist and to provide my expertise. I am not prepared to run the risk that my name may be taken up by a committee and attacked for some reason".
We have seen in this place business people of various sorts attacked for a variety of reasons. I recall a year ago that the directors of Fay Richwhite were under heavy attack in this place for a variety of reasons.
Ms Tucker: Community people are attacked in this place too.
MR HUMPHRIES: Perhaps so, but they may not understand the implications of a process whereby their names have to be submitted to a parliamentary committee, with the attendant fear that they might become an object of political debate through those processes. Bear in mind that such individuals, because they hold professional directorships elsewhere, cannot afford to have their names rejected by an Assembly committee, remote though that possibility may be, because potentially it will have an impact on their prestige and standing in respect of other company directorships. If it was said about Mr X that he was rejected by a parliamentary committee for appointment to a particular body in the Australian Capital Territory, that would count against him. The prospect of it happening to them could cause them to reconsider an offer to go onto an ACT TOC.