Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1526 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
These amendments would address concerns about regulations made within the health portfolio-despite the protestations of then health minister, Mr Michael Moore-before my time in the Assembly. Mr Moore came to the Assembly and stated strongly that he disagreed with the regulations made by other members of the executive. With the amendments I propose, this could not reoccur, unless the minister was absent, sick or out of the territory and hence not exercising his or her responsibilities.
In the amendments, allowances have been made for cases where different ministers administer the same act. I do not expect that these amendments will place an onerous task on the executive. This is simply about putting weight behind the assumption that ministers are responsible for regulations and disallowable instruments within their portfolios.
This amendment will work concurrently with, and certainly does not conflict with, the administrative arrangements made under the self-government act, section 43 (2), which allows for ministers to act on behalf of others.
The effect of this amendment is that we do not have a situation where a member of the executive defers responsibilities to other members of the executive for regulations or disallowable instruments for which they are, and definitely should be, responsible. This is about the community having faith that the minister is responsible and signs off on regulations within his or her portfolio. I seek members' support for the amendments moved in my name.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (10.55): The government is happy to support these amendments. As Ms Dundas has explained, they are based on amendments I proposed in the last Assembly. I acknowledge that Ms Dundas has adjusted the proposal-I think, wisely-to allow for circumstances where the responsible minister is absent from the territory, or on leave.
I think these are quite sensible amendments, and the government supports them. I think it is only reasonable that, in the making of regulations, the responsible minister is one of the ministers who sign the regulations. Ms Dundas has given the background to a case in point, where a responsible minister did not sign regulations because he did not approve of the content of them. I am on the record as saying that I think that is extremely anomalous and undesirable. It raises real questions concerning executive responsibility issues around cabinet solidarity and the rights, roles, responsibilities and accountability of ministers.
This is a very sensible amendment. It is one of those amendments that should not be necessary. It is in that context, I guess, that I did not proceed with it. The amendment I proposed was designed to deal with a specific circumstance-namely, where a minister was not prepared to accord with accepted notions of cabinet solidarity, and openly and blatantly abandoned Westminster principles. That will not happen under this government. As far as I was concerned, some of the urgency or priority one might have attached to amendments of this sort had dissipated.