Page 592 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008
Members will recall that on a number of occasions, through debates in this place, we have attempted to create a situation whereby, for instance, the chairman of the select committee on estimates is a member of the opposition. We passed a resolution on this matter in our party room probably three years ago, and the issue has been raised here in the Assembly on a number of occasions. Amongst other things, this mechanism today seeks to entrench that.
Mr Corbell: Why didn’t you raise it during the inquiry? If it’s been Liberal policy for some time, why didn’t you raise it during the inquiry?
MRS DUNNE: These matters were discussed in the committee. They were touched on in the committee. They were touched on when I was a member. I do not recall where they went, but they did not surface in the final report. It probably means that the Labor Party had its way and said that this is not the case.
This is about an accountability mechanism. The real truth is that the manager of government business will not support these because those opposite do not want accountability mechanisms in this Assembly. Except for this Assembly, it has always been the case that substantial committees like the public accounts committee, the scrutiny of bills and subordinate legislation committee and estimates committees have been chaired by an opposition member or a crossbench member. It has been only through the abuses of this place, particularly the abuses of the last year or so, that this has not been the case, and the opposition has found it necessary to move these amendments.
My thinking and the opposition’s thinking on this have evolved over the past six months or so. I refer specifically to papers presented at the Adelaide conference of the Australasian Study of Parliament Group which I attended in August last year and the papers and discussions at the Ottawa CPA conference in late October last year, which Mr Mulcahy and I attended. Papers presented at those conferences, particularly the Ottawa papers, were what prompted me to do this.
I discussed this with my colleagues. The model that I used for these changes is from the standing orders of the House of Commons in Ottawa. Their standing orders in relation to committees in chapter 8 to some extent go to list the number of committees that there should be—not to limit the parliament in any way as to the number of committees, but specifying that there must be certain committees of a particular nature. In the Canadian parliament, they are quite extensive, and I do not think that in the ACT Assembly we are justified in doing that.
In the past, there have been occasions—it happened on one occasion with a Liberal government; it may have been an oversight—when there was a possibility that there may not have been a scrutiny of bills committee in this place. That would have been a scandal. There should always be a public accounts committee—and I suppose that will have to be the case, because there are some statutory requirements. And there are statutory requirements for some sort of planning committee.
Members know that an Assembly may establish a select committee on a number of matters. I wanted to reinforce that there should always be an estimates committee. It is