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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2730 ..

MR KAINE: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you, members.. I want to talk about the matters which Mr Osborne raised and which Mr Rugendyke referred to. There seems to be some belief in some quarters in this place that the law in terms of what the Executive may do is totally immutable and cannot be questioned. I think that is something that we in this place need to think about carefully. Certainly, in this case the law says that the Chief Minister may determine the allocation of portfolio responsibilities, but I believe that there are two other factors that we in this place need to have regard to.

The first is that this Government is a minority government. Are Mr Osborne and Mr Rugendyke going to sit here and say that we may never object if the Government does something that, on the face of it, is contrary to strong public opinion? That seems to be the situation here. There is very strong public opinion, in my perception, that suggests that what the Government has done in this case is inappropriate and unacceptable. Are we not to express an opinion about that? That is what this motion in fact does. It suggests to the Government that what they have done is not in the public interest and is not in accordance with the public view. I think that a minority government has to have regard to that.

The situation is even further exacerbated in this case, however, because this minority Government constantly talks about inclusive government. If they mean by inclusive government that they want all of us to be involved in decision-making, why is it that every time anybody on the floor of this house dares to suggest that they should change their view about something they fall back on the law and say, "We can't do that."? They can do that, Mr Rugendyke, and there are times when they should be compelled at least to think about doing it. If they do not mean by inclusive government that they want all of us to express a view and participate in the decision-making, what do they mean by this concept of inclusive government? You cannot simply stand and say in terms of black and white that the law prescribes that the Chief Minister can do this and, therefore, she can and will, without regard for the process by which that decision is made and implemented, and without regard for what the community strongly believes, particularly in a case like this.

I do not quite know where we go from here. I have no strong view personally one way or the other of where Quamby ought to sit in the scheme of things. However, there does seem to me to be some strong justification for suggesting that the decision by the Chief Minister, in this case, to move it from one department to another, from one portfolio to another, from one Minister to another, without regard to what is clearly very strong opinion, very strong public concern, is simply arbitrary. Simply to say, "I can and therefore I will", is hardly justification.

Mr Osborne and Mr Rugendyke fall for the line and get up here and defend the line that because the law says, then we must. I think there are times when the law should and ought to be questioned. Certainly, when it imposes an absolute right on the Chief Minister, as this law does, one needs sometimes to stop and think about whether the absolute exercise of that power without qualification is an acceptable course of action to follow. Should we, as Mr Osborne and Mr Rugendyke are suggesting, accept that as final and accept that we cannot question it? I believe that the day that we accept that as the fundamental of our form of government we might as well submit ourselves to

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