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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1187 ..

MR HIRD (4.03): Is it not interesting, Mr Speaker, to have the members of the Opposition who have regularly asked for better scrutiny arrangements in this place now denying that opportunity to the very committees that would have the best understanding of the reports as they come down from each of the portfolios, that is, the committees of which I am a member of four and you, sir, are a member of the fifth? I commend Mr Kaine for this initiative. I think that it is well overdue. I invite Mr Kaine to move his chair to this side of the room once again because, Mr Kaine, it is a sensible amendment. I heard a colleague who shares with me membership of the Urban Services Committee say that he was concerned about the estimates arrangements; in other words, we are taking away from the Estimates Committee the ability to scrutinise the budget. In the old days the reports would come in straight after the budget was brought down, but the presentation of the budget has changed. I say to Mr Corbell that times are a changing and the arrangements and methodology in this place have to change with the times.

Another interesting factor is the cost to this place. We are all very conscious of the deficit. The costs are prohibitive without extending the select committee for a number of months. Under this arrangement those costs would not appear because the portfolio committees are ongoing and would be going on while the Estimates Committee is undertaking its scrutiny of the budget. Therefore, I ask everyone to support the Kaine amendments because I think they are a sensible and appropriate approach. As one who knows he will be on the Estimates Committee, Mr Speaker - I have not seen the leader of the house's recommendation, but I dare say that my name will be on his list - I can only urge members to support Mr Kaine's amendments.

MS TUCKER (4.06): I will not be supporting Mr Kaine's amendments. I must say that it is very interesting that we do not get arguments from the other side. Maybe one of the other members of the Liberal Party is going to argue the case, but we have had derision from the Chief Minister and a repeat of the derision from Mr Hird. Mr Corbell put up arguments. I did not hear them addressed from that side. His arguments were quite legitimate. This matter is about looking at how the whole of government works. It is about having a sense of how services are integrated. There is some value in developing expertise in particular portfolio areas, but there are problems with it.

I know that we have just entered into a new arrangement with the Assembly committees, but we have not yet had any formal evaluation of the system. I know that some problems have arisen with the Education Committee which were not experienced in the last Assembly when we had a Social Policy Committee working to two Ministers. They are over the fact that you cannot fit life into portfolio boxes and there are crossovers. At the moment we have a tendency for Ministers to be so committed to what is written down as the responsibility of their portfolio areas. We had a classic example with the caravan park. I asked Mr Smyth about the rights of the tenants and he said, "That's not my core business" and refused to answer. He had no knowledge of a Community Law Reform Commission report on the subject. That is just an example. I can understand Mr Smyth's position in this regard because there is a tendency to lock people into boxes. That may be efficient in some ways, but we should take a look at whether we need to put all the other mechanisms of the Assembly into the same boxes. In fact, there may be a danger in doing that. I think there is quite a lot of good sense in the argument that Mr Corbell put. I am definitely concerned about the same matters.

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