Page 591 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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Committee on Public Accounts and the Select Committee on Estimates, the Chair shall be a member of the Opposition.’.”.

It is undoubtedly the case that the review of the standing orders which came into this place in December last year is important and is testament to a lot of work by most of the members in this place over a long time—and the staff of the Assembly as well. It is a substantial amount of work and it reflects the substantial need for the updating of our standing orders. The standing orders were something that essentially grew like Topsy over the previous 17 years of the Legislative Assembly. Those standing orders were essentially imposed upon the Assembly in the first instance, and this is the first time that the Assembly has really taken ownership of them. This is an extraordinarily important piece of work. The input from the members of the Assembly has been long and ongoing, and that will continue to be the case.

Before I get to Mr Corbell’s remarks, there are a couple of comments I would like to make. There are substantial improvements in this. One that I would particularly like to refer to is that we now have a separate and stand-alone chapter on privilege. That was probably the thing that is most lacking in the current standing orders and I think that will be a substantial improvement.

The manager of government business adverted to the new procedure for dealing with petitions. From my study of accountability mechanisms in a range of parliaments, that is a good first start but it is something that the Assembly and future assemblies should look at. There is scope for even more accountability by ministers in relation to petitions, and there are many other mechanisms by which this could be done. The Australasian Study of Parliament Group conference in Adelaide last year concentrated on these things. There were a number of models proposed, one of which was direct and immediate reference to a committee—for a committee of the Assembly to inquire into the petition. After all, a petition is not to a minister; it is to the Assembly and perhaps it should be more the job of a committee to consider it.

That is something that we should be looking at. We should be looking at how this change to standing orders works and seeing whether this is enough of an accountability mechanism. We should make sure that the people who make the effort to speak to the Assembly through the mechanism of a petition are actually having their issues considered. At the moment, a petition arrives here and then goes into a vault somewhere; the minister takes no responsibility for it. Last year, with attempts to refer petitions in relation to school closures to the standing committee on education, we saw that this government was not very keen on accountability when it came to petitions. The change is a good start, but if I continue in this place I will be watching this and I hope that there will be more innovation here.

I come to the innovation which I have proposed today in the amendments which have been circulated. Mr Corbell gets up on his high horse and says, “This is an outrage.” On the last occasion that we sat in this place, members of the government were virtuously standing and saying, “When I see more material; when more information comes my way; I have the right, indeed the responsibility, to change my mind and adjust my views on this.” This is what the Liberal party has done. It has been a growing thing.

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