Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4076 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
After considering possible structures for some time and discussing various options with members and different people, I am suggesting a model that has the Government provide the relevant standing committees with draft proposals of revenue and expenditure early in the new year, and I support that, Mr Speaker. The Government has said that it can do this by 17 January. Each committee would then have around 10 weeks to scrutinise these proposals, pass them on to various community groups for input, hold public hearings and prepare a report for tabling in the Assembly. Members can ensure that they gain an understanding of other sections of the draft budget as they attend hearings and briefings at other committees as provided for by the standing orders, and also in line with the offer by Mr Quinlan.
If the committee reports were tabled in the last sitting week in March and a measure of debate immediately entered into, the Government would then have eight weeks to consider their response to prepare the budget. If the budget is tabled on 23 May, as I believe it will be, an Estimates Committee will have four weeks to consider the budget, hold public hearings and write its report before the budget is debated in the last week of June. This proposal provides for 14 weeks of budget scrutiny instead of the usual six weeks. However, a great measure of cooperation would be required from all corners of the Assembly for this process to be effective.
I make no secret of the fact that the intent of the proposed changes is threefold: Firstly, to help break the major parties' stranglehold on the budgetary process; secondly, to force executive government to bring more of its day to day business into the open and make it answerable to more powerful committees; and thirdly, to include the people of Canberra in the governance of their community to a far greater degree.
While speaking about the Estimates Committee, Mr Speaker, I think some consideration needs to be given to providing them with more resources. I still believe that more could be done in the way of providing research assistance for each of the standing committees, but the Estimates Committee would surely work more effectively with specialist help.
Australia is a place where government can all too easily be widely suspicious of the people and genuine inclusion is not the order of the day. Government is not some mystical art which only party hacks are fit to perform. There are signs that the two-party system has outlived its usefulness nationally, and it is doubtful if it ever really had its place. When the ACT Legislative Assembly was first set up in 1989 it became, in essence, this country's first republic. However, problems started on the delivery table in Federal Parliament where the major parties set about establishing a system which suited them rather than trying to make one which actually suited all of us.
No matter how unique our circumstances, the major parties did not imagine a system that did not include the Government/Opposition divide and, most importantly, a spoils system of government. They dreamt of a place, like every other Australian parliament, where the winners got the jobs and the losers waited their turn. The only problem with this approach came when the minor parties in the Senate insisted on a proportional representation electoral system. This presented a problem because it meant that the major parties did not end up with the rubber stamp model of a lower house, which was their preferred parliamentary form.