Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1715 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

I think some strange things have occurred that would raise questions about the old conventional wisdom and the Westminster practice of the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the administration. We have managed to deal with those, mostly, and we have accepted a sort of evolutionary process, if you like, although we have not codified it.

Perhaps it is time to do some work, not necessarily to codify it but to describe the operating procedures of this legislature and this executive in light of 12 years now of practical experience, because we have evolved in a different way from conventional Westminster parliaments. There is no doubt about it. Maybe some of the people who come into this place for the first time, even if they understand the principles of Westminster parliaments, do not grasp the nature of this beast and how it really works in practice. So perhaps it is time to set down some information about that so that newcomers can be clear on the environment that they work in.

I think there will always be times when there is a test of strength between the executive and the legislature. In the case of a minority government, I think there are mechanisms available to us which can bring the government to a realisation of the situation that they are in; but that depends upon the will of the non-government members of this place to take a strong stand and make it clear to the executive that what they are doing, or what they are refusing to do, is unacceptable or that it is contrary to the public interest in fact. Now, if we cannot do that by debate we are all failing.

I do not believe that we should set everything into law, into statute, in order to somehow control the executive beast. I think there are other ways. We are rational human beings and we ought to be able to deal with those problems in a rational way.

For that reason, Mr Speaker, I endorse the comments made by both the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I think it is time for us to look over our shoulders, do a review, look at the way our system really works as opposed to the way that some people think it works, and to set that down in some form, perhaps not going so far as to codify it but merely to describe it so that people can understand it.

I do not believe that this sort of legislation is helpful. The danger is that every time we enact this sort of legislation we diminish the responsibility of the executive and our ability to hold them responsible and accountable for what they do, because they can always say, "Well, you took the responsibility away from us with this piece of legislation." It therefore becomes necessary to re-define the boundaries of where the executive is responsible and where it is not responsible. I do not support the notion of legislating every time we run into an operational difficulty with the executive. I do not support this legislation, but I do support the notion that we should be having a look at the way that we do business so that the government, the executive, is clear on what we, the members of this place, expect of it.


(Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (11.44): Mr Speaker, I think Mr Kaine was quite right when he talked about the Westminster process evolving in this place, but that is not unusual. The Westminster system, as practised in the parliament in the United Kingdom in London, evolves wherever it goes. The practice is quite different in the House of Representatives. It is quite different in Canada. It is quite different in a range of other places. I was very fortunate to represent

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .