Page 600 - Week 02 - Thursday, 6 March 2008

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conference held in Ottawa at the beginning of November last year, and we did have the opportunity to be briefed on the standing orders of the Canadian parliament. A point that was identified there was that the existence of certain committees and the manner in which the chair of that committee was to be appointed were actually enshrined in the standing orders. I did agree that that was a sensible idea, and I do.

Where I obviously now take exception is confining that role to simply a member of the official opposition. Dr Foskey makes the point—and a very valid point, I suggest, in the current climate, that if the current opposition ranks are decimated, as I suspect they will be in October, and we end up with a Country Liberal Party scenario as happened in Darwin—that if there are probably only four of them left in this place, there could well be a significant number of additional independent cross-party members and it would not be unreasonable that the role of chairing some of these committees could potentially be drawn from those ranks to still preserve the integrity of the parliamentary system. So I have circulated an amendment which I would seek leave to move, depending on the outcome of Mrs Dunne’s amendment, which I imagine will be defeated.

I find a little bit of inconsistency in the Liberal Party position—a quite substantial amount—in that they are standing on their digs today about capturing the chair of these committees, but at the federal level they tore the rule book up and said, “No, no, government should grab that committee,” and appointed one of their own to chair the public accounts committee. I do not think that there is any ideological purity in this whole exercise.

I was interested, with the developments last year with the public accounts committee, in the reluctance of some members opposite to do anything about the issue, for factional reasons. I do not think that the commitment about capturing the chair for the opposition is based on any genuine motive other than the old catchcry of self-interest. So I indicate that I will not be supporting that part of the amendment as it comes forth.

I think Mr Corbell has been a little bit uncharitable. His observations were profoundly accurate, but he should be sympathetic to the complete disarray that has occurred in the ACT opposition since coming into office in 2004. There have been five changes of personnel in the role of whip and it is, in fact, a very, very accurate observation that the shambolic way in which the standing orders have been tackled is due in no small part to that constant changing of the guard. I give credit to Mrs Dunne because, when she had that role as whip, she actually was quite comprehensive in her approach in the early stages of this debate on standing orders.

However, the ball was dropped, as I distinctly remember, when Mr Smyth took over. The reason this input is so fragmented now is that the appropriate input and consultation, in fact, did not occur. There was this frantic note around saying, “We are looking at it on Tuesday. Let me know if you have got a problem.” Various people raised concerns. “It was too hard to get this up; I could get that and I could not get this.” Then, of course, we have had all these other changes.

I think Mr Corbell has been very uncharitable in not recognising the permanent state of chaos and disorder that exists. Some allowances ought to be made for their

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