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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 4558 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

minimalist path of trying to address these issues in isolation without looking at the role and position of inquiries and royal commissions is an irresponsible approach and an abrogation of duty by government.

I note that this government sees these bills as an end point of the debate and there will be no further investigations of legislation on these issues. The proposal the government has put forward basically removes any role for the Assembly in the process and clearly makes boards of inquiry and royal commissions creatures of executive government. This is consistent with the government's continuing disrespect for the processes of the Assembly and its general desire to downgrade the powers of the Assembly and turn it into a rubber stamp for policies of whichever government happens to have power on the day.

The government's approach presents a missed opportunity to improve public confidence in the appointment of inquiries and royal commissions, including drafting their terms of reference and opening up their lines of reporting. Members are well aware that I have previously attempted to improve the role of the Assembly by trying to amend the Inquiries Act last year. I also attempted to draft amendments to these bills to make the appointment and reporting of boards of inquiries and royal commissions more open and accountable. But I was advised that the scope of these bills is so narrow and constrained that my amendments would likely be ruled out of order. I think this illustrates my point entirely.

These bills present a narrow-minded and constrained approach to amending the whole issue, and the government has thrown away any opportunity to improve public confidence in the use of these bodies to independently inquire into highly pertinent areas of public concern. Instead it has finalised the idea that royal commissions and boards of inquiry are just other political weapons to be wielded by governments.

I understand that Ms Tucker proposes amendments to these bills. I won't oppose the amendments as I see them as an attempt to reinsert some tiny role for the Assembly in the process, but even if these amendments are successful it is not enough for me to support the bills as I believe the government has to go back to the drawing board entirely and look at the issue more holistically. I think these bills are unsalvageable and will not be supporting them.

MS TUCKER (10.44): These two bills implement three changes recommended in the review of the act by Crispin J following the fracas that surrounded the release of the Gallop report. The three aims are to clarify the arrangements for tabling reports in the Assembly or otherwise publishing them and privilege attached in those circumstances, to require procedural fairness, and to clarify protection for persons giving evidence.

The report that these amendments are based on is itself a useful document. This report covers the quite complex legal context of parliamentary privilege. I do think this will be a useful reference for future work that requires some thought to privilege.

This bill deals with the problem of giving privilege to the report of a board of inquiry or a royal commission in essentially the same way that I amended the McLeod inquiry act, rather than deeming these inquiries to be in effect proceedings of parliament when they are in fact set up by and accountable to the executive. This amendment defines the report

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