Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2631 ..
MR SMYTH(Leader of the Opposition) (8.26): Mr Speaker, with the amendment put forward by the minister we are moving into ground that is just getting murkier and murkier. It does go to the heart of the Westminster system and the right of the parliament over the executive, which is a fundamental right. I am just wondering about the effect of setting up the system that Mr Corbell proposes, because it will become a system. It will become the dispute resolution mechanism for when we cannot decide, whether we set it up tonight or we set it up at some other stage. I refer members to standing order No 239, which says:
A committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records.
Is that standing order now to be subject to the sort of process that Mr Corbell is setting up where ministers do not want to table documents and committees send for them? They have that power. It is an established power, it is an established right. Would we now have to go through an arbitrator to get access to documents from a committee perspective? Committees, of course, are the representatives of the Assembly on various issues. They are appointed by the Assembly and given a charter by the Assembly to inquire on behalf of the Assembly.
The paragraph that Mr Stefaniak just read is the guiding paragraph, I believe, from House Of Representatives Practice. Indeed, in looking to decisions in this place, if we are unsure we go to the body that is at the source of our system, which is, of course the House of Representatives, and House of Representatives Practice makes it quite clear. The final report of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, presented in 1984, addressed these matters and they said, "Don't go there."They simply said, "Don't go there."
That is not to say that we as an Assembly do not have the right to set up our own rules on the way we govern ourselves and the way we modify what we do here. But I do not believe that we should be doing it tonight at half past eight after a very busy couple of sitting weeks, because the magnitude of what is contained in Mr Corbell's-
MR SPEAKER: Is that a motion for an adjournment?
MR SMYTH: No, it is not a motion for an adjournment, Mr Speaker; nice try. It is a motion that says it needs to be considered. Both Ms Tucker and Mrs Dunne have said that perhaps the Administration and procedure Committee needs to look at whether we need such a process, but I do not think tonight is the night suddenly to be deciding that we will adopt this process. The process, I understand, whilst it is not set out in the upper house book of practice or whatever it is called for New South Wales, is a process that is used sometimes in the upper house of New South Wales.
The minister also referred to a process that was followed in the Northern Territory, so we know that there are at least a couple of different sorts of processes that may or may not lead to the tabling of a document and access by members to that document. But, in terms of guidance, pages 594 and 595 of House of Representatives Practice came to the conclusion, following a substantial inquiry into this subject after a number of inquiries, that you should not go there. It simply says: