Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 319 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
I am mindful that we should try to have as much balance as we can in respect of the membership of every committee. We like the delightful members of the opposition and members of the government to be equally represented. We also try to make sure that the crossbench, such as it is, has a chance to be involved. Given that the crossbench has shrunk by 50 per cent in this new Assembly, perhaps we need to be a bit more mindful of just how much work we are asking the crossbench to do. We should bear in mind that we can encourage members of the crossbench to attend the hearings but unless they are members of the committee they cannot attend the deliberative sessions.
Mr Speaker, it is the government's preference, particularly in view of the workload on members, to concur with the opposition's view that we ought to maintain the convention that has applied in respect of estimates committees. We also know that right now members are receiving budget submissions from all over the place. I received two this morning that I intend to forward on to our committee secretary. So a lot of attention needs to be given to financial matters. I recommend to the Assembly that we adopt this amendment purely on the basis of the workload that members are being asked to carry.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (11.04): Mr Speaker, the opposition will not oppose this amendment. However, let me make a few observations about it. I cannot recall a previous occasion where an estimates committee has been convened with fewer than six members. I think there has always been a practice of having six members.
Mr Quinlan: We sent the little ones to the PAC.
MR HUMPHRIES: I don't know if we did. I will take your word for that; I cannot recall having done that. Mr Speaker, the concern for other members, including members on the crossbenches, who have got heavy workloads for the committees is a laudable one. I am pleased to see that this concern is being acted upon, although in previous Assemblies during our term of government there were similar complaints, particularly from government backbenchers, about the workload of committees, and that concern was not heeded at the time. That is perhaps a little bit of sour grapes so I won't pursue that line.
Mr Quinlan: The ones on the Estimates Committee didn't do any work.
MR HUMPHRIES: Well, that is your version of events, Mr Quinlan. But they were certainly on a large number of committees. Backbenchers of the former government were on a very large number of committees and their workload was of a consequence when it came to establishing new committees. However, I am pleased to see a corner has been turned and that you will now have concern for the workload and no longer burden people in this unconscionable way.
Mr Speaker, obviously it is still possible for other members of the Assembly to sit in on committees, including this committee and to ask questions. So the size of the membership does not seem to me to be a matter of great consequence. But I sincerely hope that the establishment of this committee with just three members will not preclude the estimates committee for the annual budget, the Appropriation Bill of 2002-03, being of the usual size.