Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 7 August 2008) . . Page.. 3028 ..
the capacity now, or they think they have. But they have overdone it a bit with their $250 million worth of promises to date. (Time expired.)
It being 45 minutes after the commencement of Assembly business, the debate was interrupted in accordance with standing order 77. Ordered that the time allotted to Assembly business be extended by 30 minutes.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (12.14): I had to reread Dr Foskey’s motion because I suddenly thought I was participating in the wrong debate, and that I might have been participating in a debate lauding the achievements of the government. For 14 of his 15 minutes, all that the Chief Minister did was prattle on, as he often does, with a list of his supposed achievements. He did not once address the motion; he simply said, “No, you can’t have it.”
That is the problem with the attitude of this minister, and that is the problem with this government: they are so arrogant and so out of touch with the ordinary people, the ordinary citizens of Canberra, that they feel they can get away with anything. The Chief Minister, on the day of the election in 2004, said, “You have nothing to worry about in having a majority government.” Well, there is plenty to worry about in having a majority government that refuses to honour its commitment to be more honest, more open and more accountable.
The Chief Minister’s one line of defence was, “Westminster lets me off the hook.” Well, he should read the House of Representatives Practice, because that is not what Westminster does at all. Under the Westminster system, committees have the power to investigate. Indeed, if you follow it to its natural conclusion—and it is shown here in the House of Representatives Practice—Westminster actually authorises committees to go and seek documents. It is a power that is not often used, but it is a power that committees have. As an extrapolation of standing order 239, the federal parliament, particularly through people like Greenwood and Ellicott, has often said that you can take the step of going to search for the papers yourself.
But that will not happen here today, and I suspect that the document will not be tabled here today, because the Chief Minister will use the numbers that he has. He feels that, because he has nine votes, leaving eight remaining, he will not be held accountable. Yet the committee system, in a one-tier house, is very important, because it has the job of keeping the government accountable. It is interesting that Ellicott and Greenwood say that each house—and I quote:
… is entitled to investigate executive action for the purpose of determining whether to advise, censure, or withdraw confidence. It would indeed be odd if a House could not inquire into the administration of a department of State by a Minister in order to judge his competence before determining whether to advise him, censure him or withdraw its confidence in him. Each House of the Commonwealth Parliament can, therefore, in our view, as a necessary consequence of the existence of responsible government, exercise investigatory powers through committees in order to exercise what might broadly be called an advisory function.
There it is; that is the Westminster tradition, Chief Minister, that you clearly do not understand. Indeed, Mr Speaker, we have standing orders in line with the Westminster