Page 1515 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005

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Mr Speaker, I do not intend to canvass the issues that were discussed earlier today. I think the matter now before the Assembly is the consideration of this motion, the formation of the committee, which I now commend to the Assembly.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (12.15): Mr Speaker, the government will be supporting this motion today. I just want to make some points in response to some of the issues raised by Mr Mulcahy.

The first is, of course, that the role of the estimates committee is an important one and one which is recognised as such by the government. Indeed, members have already seen, I think—through you, Mr Speaker—the approach to government in relation to other committees in this place, where we have been very upfront in the amount of time the government has provided to committees to scrutinise the second appropriation as well as annual reports and the pretty much standard level of response that committees have seen over the years in relation to questions taken on notice. The government continues that approach and it would be, I think, wrong of any member of this place to suggest otherwise.

Yes, the estimates committee has an important role to play, but it is ultimately the role of this place to determine whether a particular proposal for expenditure should be supported. There is certainly the opportunity in debate in this place, as much as in the estimates committee, for those matters to be well canvassed. Indeed, the estimates committee often provides an important palette upon which members can then draw for their debate on the estimates committee report in this place.

Finally, Mr Speaker, the government believes that it is important that there is representation, on a proportional basis, of all members of this place on the estimates committees and we think the outcome that is proposed by us and met by Mr Mulcahy in his motion is one that will achieve that. So the government looks forward to participating in the committee in terms of ministers presenting, answering questions, along with their officials, and providing information. I know that the non-executive members of the government are also looking forward to participating as members of the legislature in scrutinising the executive’s proposals.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.18): For several weeks, Mr Speaker, I have been trying to obtain information from the government about their proposal for the composition of the estimates committee. As everybody now knows, I did not hear anything about it until the Administration and Procedure Committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

I am happy to support Mr Mulcahy’s motion today. I think it is fairly clear that one of the reasons that it stands is my intervention. I was extremely concerned at the government’s proposal at the Administration and Procedure Committee to have a government majority on the estimates committee. The government’s proposal would have jeopardised the important role of scrutinising the budget this year, which is so important to transparent and accountable government.

We have to remember, though, that the government could have had both a majority on the committee and the chair. They do have the power to achieve that and it seems they were wanting that. The key point is that now, if this motion is agreed to, the majority on

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