Page 4410 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 November 2005
Sometimes these things are not even being seen by the politicians, by the members of the various legislatures as they get to vote them through because the executive has agreed to it.
We will be opposing this bill. Some of the Chief Minister’s comments are interesting. He says that successive governments have sought to implement both the letter and spirit of the act. According to the scrutiny of bills committee, it has had only one proposal to evaluate, so I am not sure how the Chief Minister’s comments apply there. The Chief Minister then says that the dynamic of intergovernmental processes has limited the effectiveness of the legislation and that it should be repealed. Why not make it better? If you are interested in openness, Chief Minister, and if you want to make a major enhancement, leave the existing consultation and add the three dot points that you have listed there.
I thought of moving an amendment, but moving an amendment to a repeal bill seemed a bit silly. You either stop the bill or you do not. The opposition will not be moving an amendment today, but we will, under the standing orders, attempt to send it off to the JACS committee for discussion. I hope members see the sense in that. Fundamental to the Westminster system is the question of who actually is in charge, or have we gone back to the days of the monarchy when King Jon rules and he does whatever he wants?
It is a pea and shell trick. The Chief Minister says, “We are going to make it more effective. Watch what we are doing. Forget what it was all about.” I just want to remind members what the act was all about. In his tabling speech the Chief Minster said:
This approach will catch a wider range of agreements that the act has done, but without the uncertainty and definitional problems that attended the operation of the act.
If that is the case, put it into the act, do not repeal the other bits. Add something to make it work more effectively. If you are really worried about it, then let us get on with making it stronger, not weaker. Let us not take it out of the realm of legislation. The Chief Minister then said:
… on rare occasions a government may become party to … negotiations… by their nature, are confidential, and releasing details would be against the public interest. Agreements pertaining to counter-terrorism or security may fall into this category.
That is interesting. Who makes that judgement? Maybe the JACS committee should decide. Maybe a committee of the Assembly should decide when releasing details would be against the public interest. The Chief Minister says:
In such rare cases where disclosure is against the public interest the government may, as appropriate, consider providing appropriate briefings to the Leader of Opposition and other members of the Assembly.
It is all back on the executive. The executive is going to make all the decisions. It is not about members of parliament, representing the people they were elected to represent, having their say. It is about the executive making decisions and avoiding scrutiny when it wants to avoid it and using it when it wants to use it. That specifically excludes the