Page 3909 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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Thursday, 20 October 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Administration (Interstate Agreements) Repeal Bill 2005

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (10.31): I move:

That this bill be agreed in principle.

Mr Speaker, today I am introducing the Administration (Interstate Agreements) Repeal Bill 2005. The bill will repeal the Administration (Interstate Agreements) Act, which requires that ministers inform the Assembly of interstate agreements that are under negotiation and that require legislative action in the Assembly.

Following a review by my department of the operation of the act, the government has decided to replace the limited consultation provisions of the act with a range of new, non-legislative intergovernmental consultation measures. These new measures will go significantly further than the act in informing the Assembly of intergovernmental negotiations and agreements. The government’s aim is to establish a less rigid but more comprehensive flow of information to the Assembly concerning the full range of intergovernmental agreements.

At the time of its introduction, the act was designed to operate on the level of information and consultation with a minimum of legal constraint on the executive. The declared purpose of the act was to ensure that the executive would not foist interstate agreements requiring legislation on the Assembly without first allowing members time to consider and comment on the implications of the agreements. All members would agree as to the desirability of informing the Assembly of forthcoming intergovernmental agreements. The interstate agreements act has proven, however, to be a limited and less than satisfactory vehicle for such consultation.

By their very nature, intergovernmental agreements are varied and often complex. Negotiating such agreements does not follow a set course. On many occasions, discussions towards an agreement begin at relatively low levels in the bureaucracy and with a very broad scope. Such discussions often involve developing communiques or statements that do not involve detailed commitments. Negotiations may unfold over a period of many months and possibly even years. It may not be until very late in the negotiations, or even as they are completed, that it becomes clear for the first time that legislation will be required.

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