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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4075 ..

MR QUINLAN (11.36): Mr Speaker, speaking to the amendment, and very briefly, let me respond to Mr Humphries and say that when next in government we will not be engaging in this process. I think it is a great artifice. I would like to do it, but I think it is irresponsible. If the house does pass this with the support of the crossbenchers, I expect them to lead the push in the work that is to be done in this particular exercise. As I happen to be the chairman of the FPAC, and a fair load is heading towards me, I expect them to be at the forefront of the work that is being done. I invite any member of the crossbench to join the FPAC in its hearing and its deliberations, which apparently commence in the middle of January.

MR OSBORNE (11.37): As chair of the Justice Committee, I extend the same invitation to Mr Quinlan to come and join us at some stage. I think our deliberations will begin in February. I cannot remember. One of our members is overseas, Mr Quinlan. Having sat on the committee which looked at this matter, I am somewhat intrigued at the absence of the Labor Party member on that committee who supported this recommendation - - -

Mr Quinlan: He didn't, I think. Why don't you read the report again? Read the report.

MR OSBORNE: You read the report. I am pretty sure he did. It is well known, Mr Speaker, that my office has been considering possible reforms of the Assembly for about the past 21/2 years. I acknowledge that it is a painstaking process as we examine what can reasonably be done to improve the system without damaging all that which is worthwhile. The review of governance committee had a look at various aspects of our parliamentary structure and operation and tabled its report in June this year. This report is yet to be debated by the Assembly, but one of the committee's recommendations was to trial, for a period, a draft budget system.

I believe that one of the key problems in this place is that in the battle between the Executive and the Assembly the Assembly is under-resourced and often intellectually unarmed. For this reason I proposed an overhaul of the committee system so that each standing committee mirrors a ministerial portfolio. After two years of operation, I believe that the standing committees are still growing into this role and would be more effective in their respective roles with more resources at our fingertips. Perhaps the Assembly ought adopt the New Zealand model where the Auditor-General is given a special allocation which allows his office to assist parliamentary committees. However, perhaps that is an issue for another debate altogether.

As things stand, the Assembly has very little say in the way that the budget is formulated. The Executive presents the budget as a fait accompli and expects the Assembly to pass all or none of it. While this is the traditional way of Westminster parliaments, I believe that a reform of this process would provide the Assembly and the Canberra community a greater opportunity to scrutinise and to have input into the process. To achieve this will involve a reform of the way the Estimates Committee works. The aim of the draft budget proposal is to claw back some of the power now vested in the Executive and to include the wider community in the budgetary process. I would like to emphasise though that the finished product will still be the Government's budget.

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