Page 1848 - Week 06 - Thursday, 5 May 2005

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Mr Gentleman came to see me the other day about the motion, but I had already seen it on the notice paper and I had observed that the composition of the committee was to be two government members and one opposition member, with no crossbencher. While I gave some thought to whether I should fight to be on this committee, and probably fail, I felt that I did not want to be on it because I was not sure that the committee would produce anything. No, I take that back. There is potential for this committee to do some good research, some new research, and come up with some new information that could be useful to this government in devising next year’s budget.

That is the only ground on which I could agree with this Assembly setting up this committee. It has to be of use to us, and this government has to decide to make up for the shortfalls. I know it is a problem for Labor governments all round the country that they are very much constrained under our federal system by grant decisions and policy decisions made by the commonwealth government. I can sense the frustration there. I have heard it expressed often enough by our Treasurer and other members of the government and I know how it is played out in regard to commonwealth-state housing agreements and so on. I share a lot of that frustration.

Mrs Dunne quoted me as saying that I feel that this is a rhetorical gesture, because I mentioned yesterday or the day before that I see a lot of the way debate is framed in this Assembly as being the territory Labor government versus the Liberal opposition, but really using the Liberal opposition as a straw man for the federal government, and vice versa. I do not think that this is the place to play out federal politics. Federal politics are relevant to us and they are the context in which we work but, as I said to Mr Gentleman when he brought this motion to my attention, “This is just going to be one big barney, two Labor and one Liberal, with the government in the majority.” It will just be a tinier fight than the one we have here.

Frankly, I am not interested. I would have thought that there was room to discuss the terms of reference. One thing about committees is that they come out of this whole Assembly, and this one is being imposed upon it. That probably is not the spirit in which Mr Gentleman has put forward the motion, because I know that he cares hugely about working people and their conditions. He knows that I do, too. I am in fact a working person with a family who has quite a lot of trouble fitting in my obligations, as they exist. That is one of the reasons that, as a working person, I am not going to fight to be on this committee about working families.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (11.20): Mr Speaker, I think we can all agree with what Dr Foskey just said and what Mrs Dunne said earlier about the need for the committee and whether it is just an opportunity to beat up on the federal government. If the government is serious about this issue, you really do have to question why families in need, working families, have to wait until August 2006 to get an answer from the committee. Why would it take 16 months to gather this sort of information in the ACT?

The information picked up in June 2005 is going to be out of date by August 2006. It just seems illogical to wait 16 months to get that answer if this issue is as important as the government maintains. If it is to influence the Commonwealth Grants Commission, by August 2006 we will have had another budget process and the commission would have

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