Page 3162 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (3.34): I support the Public Sector Management Amendment Bill (No 2) because it better establishes the separation of powers between the administration and the parliament of the ACT, thus awarding the Assembly secretariat its due status. As we are well aware, the separation of powers is much in the public eye at present. In this case, it is perhaps self-evident that it is not appropriate for the Assembly, our parliament, to be answerable to the Chief Minister of the government by way of his chief executive. Rather, the Assembly is answerable to the electorate, which, in practice, makes the Speaker the relevant minister and the Clerk the Assembly’s chief executive.

I support the amendments that allow for greater independence in the selection of the Clerk, that bring the Clerk’s pecuniary interest declaration into line with other CEOs and that provide more flexibility around the selection of an acting clerk. I also support the requirement that the Commissioner for Public Administration receive approval of the Speaker before investigating the Legislative Assembly secretariat, as this is the current practice for the Chief Minister and the Chief Minister’s Department. In closing, I would like to add that I find the work of our secretariat to be of a very high professional standard, especially in its client service. It is certainly much appreciated in my office.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (3.35): The Liberal Party will also be supporting the Public Sector Management Amendment Bill 2005 (No 2). I thank the Speaker for bringing it to the attention of the chamber. As outlined, this is about the separation of powers. Currently, the power to appoint the Clerk resides with the executive, which is clearly inappropriate. We only appoint a clerk every now and then or, in the case of the Assembly, once every 15 years approximately. It has therefore come to the attention of those involved with the process that the Speaker does not have the responsibility that he should have. The bill also clarifies, importantly, the existence of the Assembly secretariat as a discrete unit within the ACT public service. Currently, the act only allows for officers assisting the Clerk, which I think is a bit vague. This gives certainty for the secretariat as well, which is very important. As I said, we will be supporting the bill.

MR BERRY (Ginninderra) (3.37), in reply: I thank members for their support of this bill. Mr Corbell hit the nail on the head, I think, when he talked about the symbolism of the bill because, in practice, that is what will occur. Whilst we in this Assembly inherited what we were given in the first place, so far as the management of the Clerk’s position is concerned, Mr Smyth made the salient point that one does not get a chance to consider these issues, and the legislation which deals with the appointment of the Clerk gathers dust for many years in between its application. The appointment of the most recent Clerk gave cause to look through these provisions and bring them up to date with Assembly practice. I thank members for their support of the bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

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