Page 355 - Week 01 - Thursday, 11 December 2008

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I, for one, am a very big and strong advocate for convention. I think it is a strength that we can fall back on in moments of hesitation. I think that we should warmly embrace Latimer House, but we all ought to take our time to think about it—exactly what it is, what it means—because everything we do in this Seventh Assembly will affect what happens in this Assembly going forward. With that, I strongly support Mr Corbell’s motion.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (3.44), by leave: Earlier today I was speaking on this motion, and I was interrupted by the lunch break. I was referring to the fact that the Latimer House principles had been mentioned during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. They endorsed the principles in Nigeria in 2003 and agreed in 2005 that the Latimer House principles should form an integral part of democratic government.

Mr Seselja this morning touched on the summary of the Latimer House principles, and I will not go over those again. However, what I would say is that endorsement, promotion and implementation of the Latimer House principles were included in our accountability reform agenda and were a key element of our support for the Labor Party in our discussions with them.

The enhancement of democracy is a fundamental objective of the Greens in parliaments around Australia and the world. We are committed to ethical governance, and this requires that clear and high standards inform accountability mechanisms and the management of relations between the parliament and the executive, the judiciary and oversight agencies. And I particularly refer here to the oversight agencies and emphasise that point in the context that these are an emerging part of the structure of our democracy, providing in some senses a fourth arm of government and a further check.

In our accountability reform agenda, the ACT Greens further expanded on these principles and guidelines, with specific proposals relevant to the committee system, parliamentary procedures, parliamentary resources, enhanced integrity, including through improved access to information, supportive structures for oversight institutions and improved electoral law. On Tuesday, we saw the adoption of amendments to the standing orders, a key first step in improving Assembly process and function and delivering on a Greens commitment to deliver better government and accountability to the Assembly.

Another Greens initiative to be introduced is a range of changes to the way our parliamentary committees operate. This will be done both as a means of improving executive accountability to the Assembly and to allow committees to make a greater contribution to the law-making process so that it reflects the range of views and ideas represented in the Assembly. It is clear that no single person or party in this Assembly has all the answers, and we must endeavour to ensure that the best ideas in this place are harvested for the good of all Canberrans.

The recommended benchmarks that accompany the Latimer House principles provide, in respect of committees and oversight, that committees shall provide meaningful opportunities for minority or opposition parties to engage in effective oversight of government expenditure. Typically, the public accounts committee will be chaired by

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