Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 5045 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
I also note that this is not the first time an instrument has not made it to the Assembly. While no harm has been done here and we can fix it, it is of concern that the accountability and oversight of various statutory bodies seem to be lax. While nothing outrageous has happened that we know of, it could have. That is something to be generally concerned about and aware of.
MRS CROSS (5.07): I support the government's Validation of Fees (Cemeteries) Bill 2003, which seeks to validate cemetery fees paid from 1 July 2001 to 14 November 2003. From 1 July 2001 until 1 September 2003 increased prices were not valid due to a breakdown in process related to the delegation of the ministerial power to determine cemetery charges. Similarly, all cemetery charges made from 1 September 2003 to 14 November 2003 were not valid because the Assembly was not notified of these charges. This bill seeks to validate these charges.
Whilst I am supportive of this bill and realise its necessity, I place on the record that retrospective legislation is generally not good law making. Support for this bill should not signal to the government that retrospective legislation will always be supported.
The most interesting aspect of the bill is the prohibition of the minister delegating fee determinations to a subordinate. This will have no real effect on how cemetery fees are determined. All it will do is ensure the minister signs off on the fee determination.
Mr Wood: I am not sure of that either.
MRS CROSS: Is that right?
Mr Wood: Someone has to remind me.
MRS CROSS: This should have been the case all along. The minister, in order to be fully responsible for his department, needs to be aware of and sign off on all important actions taken by his department. He needs to be reminded by his staff that that is what he has to do. I am pleased this power has been removed as it further strengthens the notion of ministerial responsibility. I will be supporting the Validation of Fees (Cemeteries) Bill 2003 and commend other members to do likewise.
MR WOOD (Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and Minister for Arts and Heritage) (5.09), in reply: I thank members for their comments and their support. I remind Ms Tucker of the old saying: there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. With this legislation we have those in combination. It is also certain that taxes and fees will rise over a period. The Canberra Public Cemetery Trust has moved to be fully self-funding so the relatives of the dead will pay for what happens there.
I am no longer delegating this authority. Nevertheless, I am not sure the situation has changed much, because someone somewhere still has to remind me of all this-as Mrs Cross and I were discussing. Let us expect that that reminder will come through.
It is good to get this legislation through today. In a sense it is not urgent but it is not good to have retrospective legislation-legislation fixing an error-sitting there over a long period.