Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 26 August 2008) . . Page.. 3571 ..
I suggest that, in the next Assembly, there be a little more clarity around the role of the chair—perhaps the role of the chair in relation to the committee office. That would assist chairs in future, because mistakes can be made inadvertently but they can be mistakes which have severe repercussions. Fortunately, in this case there were not, but there is that potential.
As I said in my letter, it is a grey area. One assumes that in the role of the chair there is some ability to act independently of other committee members, especially when speedy action is required. If I were required to take speedy action as a chair and it was not possible to get the agreement of every member—sometimes they are out of the country or otherwise uncontactable—I would like to think I could take that speedy action.
Let us reflect on what this might mean for committees, because our committee system is strong and I would hate to see it weakened in any way. Therefore, we need clarity around the role of the chair.
MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (10.48): I thank the committee for what appears to be a considered report. Like Dr Foskey, I have not had a chance to read the whole report; I just browsed through it, upon receiving it here this morning. As one of the people who is talked about in the findings and commented on in the report, the committee did write to me with those findings and recommendations. My main purpose in speaking this morning is to talk about one of the recommendations—that is, recommendation No 2, which reads:
The committee recommends to the Speaker that regular training in relation to committee practice and procedures be provided for the Secretary of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs and all other committee secretaries to ensure that these staff are able to assist in providing expert advice and assistance in the administration of parliamentary committees.
I think this is a very important recommendation. I acknowledge the work of the current secretary of the legal affairs committee, Ms Robina Jaffray. I want to highlight in this place what a hard-working member of staff Ms Jaffray is. She is also a very impartial member of staff who works with members from all sides of the Assembly. I think that is to her great credit. She is also a very professional person who has a great deal of experience, having worked not just here, as the manager of the committee office for coming up to four years, but also in the committee office in the Senate. So she does have a great deal of experience.
This report shows the stresses placed on the Assembly’s committee office. All of us who are or have been on committees are aware of the stresses that are placed on the committee secretariat. I want to put on the record my appreciation of all the work that the committee staff put into the job they do. They go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis. If you compare the staffing of the committee secretariat with that of other legislatures around the country, you will find that our committee secretariat work incredibly hard. For each committee of the ACT Assembly, there is one secretary. Committees in other places around the country would have a secretary as well as somebody to do research. They would also probably have an administrative person.