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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 48 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

I recommend that the Assembly accept the construction of standing committees in the forms proposed. May I extend my appreciation to those involved in the consultation process in the development of the structures. There was a genuine attempt to create structures which met the expectations of all involved, and I thank all of you. I commend the structures to the Assembly.

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (12.05): Mr Speaker, I want to indicate that the opposition will support the motion that has been moved by Mr Hargreaves. It is a motion which provides for an appropriate structure of Assembly committees. It provides members with avenues and a chance to be able to pursue a range of matters which are obviously important to the work of this place and to our constituents.

It is clear that this exercise in structuring committees is a matter of some ongoing debate in this place. Mr Hargreaves has spoken to the reasons why this structure is to be preferred to previous structures. Although, as I said, the Liberal Party does not oppose this motion, I do defend in my remarks today the structure which was previously used, where portfolio committees shadowed, as it were, the ministers concerned. I think it is important that we be able to not only hold ministers accountable in particular areas for particular activities, but that we hold them in general accountable for the way that they conduct their portfolios across the board.

Mr Speaker, under this structure ministers in all cases will be reporting to a number of committees. The subject matter might be united in respect of those committees, but the coherence of ministers appearing before committees might not be a matter that we can take for granted. That is, each committee will be dealing with a number of ministers and the opportunity to therefore focus on a particular minister over a period of time is, to some extent, diminished.

For example, I know that there is no committee expressly tasked with the exercise of shadowing the Chief Minister in his day-to-day performance of the operation of the government.

Mr Quinlan: We do that.

MR HUMPHRIES: You do that. Well I am pleased to see someone is going to do it. I can assure Mr Quinlan and Mr Wood that we will be doing it as well.

Perhaps having the Chief Minister report to the Heath Committee as Minister for Health, the Legal Affairs Committee as Attorney-General, and other committees in respect of other matters within his purview, may keep him on his toes with respect to each of those matters individually but this may not perhaps keep a focus on his overall performance as Chief Minister. I suspect that there will be occasions when we will be wondering with the committee structure in general how exactly we can hold a particular minister to account. However, Mr Speaker, I do not think this is a serious a problem. It is a reflection of an earlier decision made in earlier assemblies to structure committees in this way, and I think it is sustainable.

I mentioned in my remarks on the first sitting day in November that there was, in the view of the opposition, a need for us to greatly enhance and improve the work of the standing committees of this place. The Liberal Party has put on record its concern that

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