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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1709 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

elected by the people of the territory. It is based on a very democratic franchise and it is appropriately the body to arrange for decisions to be made ultimately about the direction of the territory.

By the same token, our system of government is one where there are some separations of power that prevent the Assembly from having untrammelled capacity to make decisions. One obvious and more fundamental separation of power is between the legislature and the judiciary where we respect and uphold the right of judges and magistrates to make decisions which neither the executive nor the legislature can influence in individual cases, although the law under which decisions are made is determined by the legislature.

The separation of powers that occurs in the United States between the legislature and the executive is not so pronounced in the Westminster system, and in this system it is open to the legislature to change the nature of the boundary between executive and parliament. Indeed, Mr Speaker, over the last 12 years of self-government we have seen a gradual shift of power away from the executive into the hands of the legislature.

Mr Speaker, I cannot pretend to be squeamish about that because I have been part of that process. Indeed, on a number of occasions I have supported decisions that have continued that transfer from one side to the other. I have no doubt that anyone who is in the executive position tends to view these things with much more alarm and much more concern than someone who sits in other places in the Legislative Assembly.

But we do need to remind ourselves that there is still a division between the responsibilities of the executive and the legislature, and that if the legislature takes on responsibilities from the executive it wears both the credit and the onus that goes with that transfer. Decisions which are difficult, decisions which perhaps members would like to avoid having to make, necessarily become decisions which they have to share in when they as members of the legislature who are not in the executive acquire those powers or those responsibilities to themselves as a member of this parliament. The budget process is perhaps an illustration of that.

Mr Speaker, I think it is important for us to have a sense of where we believe the line should be drawn. I am not sure that I have a clear sense of where that line should be drawn in the eyes of the broader Assembly at present. I think perhaps we should consider just where the line ought to be drawn in making a decision about this legislation.

I think it is important for us to have the power, as a parliament, to inquire into matters which are very much matters of weight and importance, matters of consequence in the broader community. We are expected by the citizens of this territory to have the capacity to know what is going on, or to find out what is going on, and to supervise the things that happen in this territory which may be of concern to the citizens of this territory. But there is also a danger that in acquiring the power under the Inquiries Act to initiate inquiries we may be assuming a level of knowledge on the part of the members of the Assembly which is sufficient to make decisions in these circumstances, decisions which perhaps require a large degree of knowledge to know both whether to conduct and inquiry and what kind of inquiry to conduct.

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