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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1527 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The government is happy to support Ms Dundas' amendments. In the scheme of things, they are very sensible. It is only reasonable that responsible ministers should be responsible. There has been a very stark example of this in the past. Ms Dundas referred to the example where there was an abandonment of that basic principle.

We support the amendment.

MR STEFANIAK (10.58): I note what Mr Stanhope says, and I hope his cabinet and ministers will be responsible. I can see where Ms Dundas is coming from, in relation to this amendment. I can also see that the government is supporting her, so it will definitely go through.

I will exercise some words of caution here. Apart from a period of about two and half years, I have been in this Assembly since its inception. In the length or life of this Assembly, it would have been be very rare that the responsible minister, having the carriage of a matter, would not have signed. There are obvious exceptions which you mention-such as the minister being absent from the territory, ill or on leave.

The issue of conscience occasionally crops up. I do not think I have heard any great community clamour to ensure that the responsible minister signs these pieces of subordinate legislation in every instance.

I can think of several instances, over the course of all of our Assemblies, where the responsible minister has not been comfortable-invariably through personal, moral, beliefs-and another minister has actually signed. That has not affected the administration of the Assembly or the administration of justice.

I also recall on one occasion-although I was not the responsible minister-being asked to second a piece of legislation, or regulations, which I had probably argued against in cabinet. I thought: well, can you get someone else? They did, and I felt a bit better about it. It is something that rarely crops up. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any other instances. I wonder whether this is absolutely necessary. In the past, we had a bit more flexibility, and it did not affect the administration of justice or the administration of legislation in the territory.

Apart from amendment No 4, which is on a completely separate topic to the rest of your amendments, I note that amendments 1 through to 3 deal with this point. Perhaps I could comment on amendment No 2.

MR SPEAKER: We will deal with just amendment No 1.

MR STEFANIAK: All right, Mr Speaker; I can put that in a different way.

I assume your reference in amendment No 1 to when a responsible minister cannot sign because he or she is absent from the territory, ill or on leave, follows through and applies to the rest of your amendments dealing with this matter. Obviously it does. You are nodding your head. I can see that, quite clearly, that is your intent. That is quite positive, and it is good to see.

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