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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1186 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

standing committees if they wanted to look at more than one portfolio area. I think that presents some real difficulties for continuity and coordinated oversight of the operations of government.

Mr Kaine: They do not attend now.

MR CORBELL: Mr Kaine interjects that they do not attend now. Mr Kaine, they have the choice now, but they would not have that choice under this new process. Mr Speaker, members can scoff at and be cynical about that, but it is an important principle that we are talking about here. The overall oversight of the operation of the Government's administration, financial and otherwise, is an important matter. Indeed, it is one of the most important matters for the Assembly. I would put to members that they should be seriously considering the fact that a change of this nature would, potentially, deny members the opportunity to participate in that way. It is that simple, Mr Speaker. The Labor Party will not be supporting Mr Kaine's amendments.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (4.00): Mr Speaker, the Liberal Party will be supporting Mr Kaine's amendments. There are quite a number of reasons for that. Mr Kaine made a number of points very well. From the Government's perspective, it is important that the level of scrutiny be as high as it can be. One of the points in having portfolio-based committees is that it enables those committees to become as au fait as possible with their portfolios so that the committees are aware of the structure of the portfolios and the people and budgets involved and have a very good feel for the portfolios themselves. For those committees to look at the annual reports is, I think, totally appropriate because they will be looking at them not from a standing start but from a lot of information gained during all of the inquiries that Mr Corbell has been talking about.

I think it is important to remember that an annual report is not just about the financial statements to the year's end, particularly as members have monthly figures from all of the departments at the moment and it is not as if the end of the year figures are a big surprise to anybody. The annual reports are about the workings of a department, staffing levels, direction, all sorts of things to do with what the department has achieved in a whole range of areas, not just financial, over the previous 12 months. It is those sorts of things that a portfolio committee would be on top of already. As I said, Mr Speaker, it would not be starting from scratch, whereas the Estimates Committee would not have that capacity, that information at its disposal or that ongoing exposure and information base related to a particular department. I believe that it is appropriate to go along with Mr Kaine's amendments.

This is a really unusual debate. The Government is arguing for a process that produces greater scrutiny and the Opposition is arguing for something that produces less scrutiny. Mr Speaker, I have to say that I find that somewhat unusual, to put it mildly. Maybe it is because those opposite just cannot bring themselves to support anything, that this is about the ongoing negative approach of the Opposition, and anything new, anything innovative, is a definite no. We can see it in this case. We are talking about something that would mean that the Government would be under more scrutiny than it would be if we stayed with the current scenario.

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