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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1185 ..

MR CORBELL (3.55): Mr Speaker, the Labor Party will be supporting the establishment of the Select Committee on Estimates 1999-2000. I want to focus all of my comments on Mr Kaine's amendments. Mr Kaine is proposing that the second element of the Estimates Committee inquiry and report, which deals with annual reports and associated statements, be referred to the portfolio standing committees of the Assembly rather than to the Estimates Committee itself. Mr Speaker, the Labor Party is of a view not to support this amendment, not solely because it is in itself a different way of doing things, but simply because we believe that such a step may result in two things.

The first of these is that it may result in a heavier workload being placed on some already overly burdened standing committees. Speaking from my own experience, Mr Speaker, the Standing Committee on Urban Services currently has before it around half-a-dozen inquiries, a number of them significant ones, as well as the usual draft variations that come before that committee from time to time. I believe that the requirement to investigate annual reports through the standing committees would only add to an already considerable workload and may not result in the best scrutiny of those reports, although I have no doubt that if the Assembly does refer this work to those committees the committees will make every effort to adequately scrutinise them.

Mr Speaker, the second point is perhaps the more important one and that deals with the oversight of government administration and management. There has been considerable benefit in the past in providing for some continuity by having the committee that is examining the Government's estimates for the coming financial year budget then going on to examine and compare the work of the previous financial year as outlined in the annual reports. That level of continuity is available to all of the members of the Estimates Committee process - indeed, to other members of the Assembly who are not voting members of the committee.

The concern I would like to raise in this place is, first of all, that a change such as proposed by Mr Kaine removes that continuity and breaks up that ability to properly oversight in a whole-of-government way the operations of the Government. It also places an undue pressure on members of this place. As members would be aware, Estimates Committee meetings tend to take precedence over all other committee meetings. Indeed, every effort is made, successfully, to ensure that Estimates Committee meetings do not conflict with meetings of other committees of this place. I would suggest that if we were to take the step that Mr Kaine is proposing we would not be in a position to be able to ensure that there was no overlap of committee meetings and the scrutinising of the different annual reports. Mr Speaker, that presents particular difficulties for those members who are on more than one standing committee. I would imagine that it would pose more difficulties for the Government than it would for the Opposition, but I think it would also pose some problems for the crossbench members.

Mr Speaker, as we know, the Estimates Committee provides an opportunity for every member to oversight every part of the annual reports process that they choose to be involved in. That opportunity is presented to them. If we had these reports scattered amongst the various standing committees of the Assembly, I doubt whether every member would be able to attend or have the opportunity to attend every meeting of those

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