Page 2052 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005
committee—and the estimates committee has given me a chance to see the whole breadth of government workings. I really appreciate that. It also has given me an opportunity to engage in processes of responding to the budget—processes such as how do budgets work and how do we then analyse budgets? These are all new things for me. I am not an accountant and I appreciated gaining the skills that I believe I developed during this process. Finally, of course, it was appropriate to ensure that the third voice of the Assembly, the Greens’ voice for which a significant number of people voted, was represented.
I played my role on this committee in good faith. However, the Liberal Party was unhappy that the Greens were represented on the committee, to the extent that they tried to move a censure motion in the Assembly. Perhaps it would have suited the political agendas of both major parties to have had the estimates committee to themselves but I suspect it would have been an even more unpleasant example of a dysfunctional committee had that been the case.
In the event, I must thank the chair, Ms MacDonald, for doing a good job, although she was severely tested at times. I believe she worked hard at maintaining impartiality and the transcripts show that those who complained the loudest about the process got the lion’s share of the time to ask questions in the hearings. No doubt that was always part of the agenda. Of course, the chair was caught between the demands of her party and the shrill and, at times, bullying tactics of the two Liberal members of the committee and ministers in her own party, I expect. I believe that Ms MacDonald did as good a job as anyone could have in those circumstances.
Mr Speaker, in politics we tend to divide people up along party lines. In this committee, however, there was a gender division as well as a party-line division. I am not going to go into this matter in depth because I know how certain members feel about women and women’s rights and the role women play in creating the society that we have. But with three members, including the chair, being women and the committee being served by women secretaries, the contrast in the ways that we preferred to work was very stark.
The Liberals, who perhaps incidentally were men—or perhaps the men who were incidentally Liberals—chose to complain and to be confrontational when they were not the questioners, and to bludgeon rather than negotiate. I do not know whether this is because they were acting out roles that they had seen in the federal parliament and thinking that this was appropriate behaviour for politicians in a small committee, which has the potential for dialogue, consensus decision making and tolerance of other points of view.
Despite the problems of the process, I believe that we have ended up with a pretty good estimates report, and I want to say that that report benefited from the contributions of every member of that committee. Everyone had a go. There were some very good meetings and there were some very good times. There were times when I believe that the Liberal members of the committee and I worked well together but I believe that there was a lot more potential for that than occurred.
The production of an 80-plus page dissenting report indicates that the Liberal members may have decided at the start of the estimates process that they would exploit the process to have on the transcript points that they had already decided upon. I think this was