Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 2823 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Standing committees, therefore, may have no particular or specialised knowledge of a single portfolio. I believe that it is partly for that reason that the committees did not feel restrained in making recommendations that would have application across all portfolios. The issue of the expertise of standing committees is a matter that received consideration in this place in September 2002. Members may recall that a government motion to have a single committee review annual and financial reports was defeated by the Assembly.
The government argued at the time that, because we no longer have a standing committee structure that mirrors the portfolio responsibilities, a single committee would be a more effective way of scrutinising annual and financial reports. The government therefore agrees with recommendation 2 of the report of the Standing Committee on Planning and Environment that the examination of annual and financial reports should in future be streamlined to provide a continuum with annual budget estimates processes by a select or standing committee whose terms of reference incorporate examination of estimates, budget and annual and financial reports.
In accordance with that recommendation the government will refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure and support a debate in the Assembly for the sustained examination of policies, programs and projects over the full life of the standing or select committee. The government has maintained for some time that the committee that examines the prospective expenditure through the estimates process should be the committee that examines what has occurred over the past year. It is a logical extension of the estimates committee process and we will be supporting the standing committee's recommendations in that respect.
In the government's view, while recognising the efforts of the standing committees to come to terms with the 2002 reports, the frequent cross-agency nature of their comments also points to the need for a single committee. A standing committee is more appropriate than a select committee because it recognises the reality that the committee would function throughout the year. The proposed committee should be an existing committee because it is difficult, if not impossible, for the two government backbenchers to serve on additional committees and it is also difficult for minor parties to service additional committees.
The terms of reference of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts specifies that it is to examine the territory's public accounts and enhancement of the committee's role in line with the government's pre-election undertaking to restore the key role of the Public Accounts Committee in the code of good government. Further to the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Planning and Environment on the issue of a single committee I observe that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has noted that it is considering possible approaches to the examination of annual reports by Assembly committees, which will provide for more systematic and uniform scrutiny.
I welcome this development and observe that it would be consistent both with the overview of reports by a single committee and with the continuous improvement of annual report directions issued by me as Chief Minister. I look forward to hearing more of what the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has in mind. The five reports of the standing committees made a total of 39 recommendations, although