Page 3277 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

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mostly technical, although there is some new scope to increase the pay of executives as their responsibilities increase. We will be supporting those changes.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.55): Before I embark on my response to the bill, I would like to pick up on something that the Attorney-General mentioned in his tabling speech. In February 2003, the previous Commissioner for Public Administration presented a report to the government titled Review of the Public Sector Management Act 1994. On 16 August 2005, the Attorney-General stated in the tabling speech for this bill, “The government is considering the response to the commissioner’s report.” It has taken the government some 2½ years to develop a response to this report. I would appreciate it if the Attorney-General could outline in his closing speech why it has taken this long for a response to be presented to the Assembly.

Moving on to the bill before us today, I support the amendments to chief executive and executive employment conditions as they do not appear to make major changes to the ACT public service and they seem to be consistent with current practice. The Commissioner for Public Administration has stated that the amendments before us are in the interests of good public administration. The CPSU has noted that it is not opposed to the amendments as they do clarify some grey areas. But I think that the bill is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the Tonkin affair. We should be cautious of awarding too much power to the executive in the case of public service employment. I can understand why the government reacted the way it did to the Tonkin matter, but this could take its powers too far in the future.

I would also like the Assembly to note that the bill before us is only a small step, one small part of the government’s response to the commissioner’s report of 2½ years ago. It is interesting that the report recommends that chief executives continue to be employed on term contracts, but that executives should be given more permanency to ensure the provision of free and frank advice. It also recommends that there be a clear framework of due process for the removal of a chief executive when his or her relationship breaks down with a minister. These issues have not really been responded to in today’s bill. The real work and discussion are yet to come, and I look forward to that.

Finally, I would like to express my concern that the government has used its powers to introduce and debate this bill within one sitting period without providing a strong reason for its urgency. Such a move is disrespectful to the scrutiny of bills reporting procedures, to the opposition and to me as a crossbencher as it allows little time to digest and articulate the intricacy of arguments that a bill may present. The latest scrutiny of bills committee report, 22 August 2005, was able to investigate and provide opinion on the Public Sector Management Amendment Bill No 3, but we should be aware that it was published only three days ago. A government response to its concerns arrived in my office at 12 o’clock today, only a few hours ago.

I think we should return to the practice of holding off on debate at least until the opposition and crossbench have been given appropriate time. I should just add that that response was received a few days ago, because we had this speech ready a couple of days ago. Unless there is a legitimate reason for the urgency of a bill—and there is not in relation to this one—I think we should return to the practice of holding off on debate at least until the opposition and crossbench have been given appropriate time to consider the government response to scrutiny of bills committee concerns.

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