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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3900 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

her status as that of an Independent. That is none of our business. We are happy to cash in on it, but it is none of our business.

More importantly, Mr Speaker, the difficulty we have is that there is a precedent being set here with which we are uncomfortable, that is, that the first part of the motion appoints Mrs Cross to be a member of a committee that she does not want to serve on. That is a very bad precedent to set. This Assembly should not be appointing members to committees on which they do not want to serve. In other words, Mr Speaker, had Mrs Cross said that she was happy with this proposal, this side of the house would have been happy to go along with it, but Mrs Cross has indicated that she is not happy with it. Therefore, that precedent cannot be allowed to apply; we cannot allow the Assembly to say to a member, "You must serve on this committee."

To quote Mr Smyth in his dissenting report to the Privileges Committee, be careful about offending the dignity of the house. To require a member to serve on a committee on which that member did not want to serve, in my view, would offend the dignity of the house. For once, probably for the last time, I do agree with Mr Smyth. I am sorry to say to the crossbench members that we cannot support this motion. However, we do wish them the very best of luck in their negotiations come the new year.

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (11.51): I want to comment briefly on this motion. Mr Hargreaves raised quite a good point in the course of the debate when he spoke about forcing members to serve on a committee on which they do not wish to serve. The situation here appears to be that Mrs Cross wishes to serve on the CSSE Committee and on the Planning and Environment Committee, but does not wish to serve on the Education Committee. Obviously, she has made an election; she wants to serve on two committees, which is a reasonable workload, and she has nominated two committees.

In general, I think Mr Hargreaves has stated quite accurately the proposition that the Assembly should not force members onto a committee on which they do not wish to serve. That is quite a good point. It is unfortunate that today we are confronted with whether we actually have to force somebody because, for the first time in the life of the Assembly, we have not been able to reach agreement about the composition of committees. These matters have been discussed in the past between members off the floor and it has always been possible to reach agreement. Some of the other people who have been around since the beginning, including you, Mr Speaker, might challenge my recollection, but I do not think that there has ever been an occasion prior to today where we have not had a consensus on the membership of committees.

We are in a position where we are, by virtue of this motion, forcing a member onto a committee on which they say they do not wish to serve. But the problem with not doing what Ms Dundas is proposing is that, effectively, we have to put forward another proposition which is equally obnoxious, that is, that we should abandon the intent and the letter of standing order 221, which requires proportionality on Assembly committees, or we have to force another member of the crossbench who is already on those committees to leave those committees and go somewhere else in order to protect standing order 221.

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