Page 1978 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 15 May 2013

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A key challenge facing the ACT, which is ultimately hindering performance and capacity, is the breadth and volume of ministerial responsibilities in a Cabinet of four or five …

Professor John Halligan, in the review into the size of the Assembly, says:

A ministry of only 5 confounds the basic tenets of effective cabinet government … The number of ACT ministers is fixed at five … As a consequence each ACT Minister is responsible for a number of portfolios plus having COAG roles.

I think this case has been pretty well litigated both in the media and in this place. We agree with the Chief Minister and with many of the experts that there is a need to expand the size of the ministry in the first instance, as I have put down, to six.

Should the Chief Minister make an amendment to this bill to say that it should be seven or a greater number then we would certainly look at that. If she thinks that seven is a more appropriate number then we could support that. It does not mean that she would have to appoint seven ministers, but it would give her the ability to do so.

There has been, I believe, some commentary in the media from the Chief Minister about this issue. One of the concerns that appears to have been raised is that it would not leave enough backbenchers for committee work. I would like to make a couple of points about that. Firstly, this is as big a backbench as a government has ever enjoyed in this place. Secondly, the government has chosen to appoint two members to each committee. Essentially, committees are there to scrutinise government, to assist the Assembly in doing what it does, and that is a non-executive role principally.

There is no reason for each committee to have two members of the government on it. It is a nonsense, to be honest. What we could do—and gladly what the opposition would do—is take on perhaps a greater role in the committees, where we could see on each committee two members of the opposition and one member of the government. So we could significantly reduce the number of members of the government who are engaged in committee work whilst we would actually be doing what committees should be doing, which is actually scrutinising government in a better way. We can have a win-win out of this should we choose to do so.

I call on the Chief Minister to consider that. If she is serious about this, if that is a concern that she legitimately has, that she has two members on committees, then let us move to change the committee structure. Unless this is just jobs for the boys and jobs for the girls, let us do that now. We will get a better result and it will free up her members. So that is enough of that nonsense.

We have argued in this place for the appointment of a fifth judge, as I have mentioned on a number of occasions. The Chief Minister’s retort, essentially, was that the court needs to work harder. She said:

We don’t just necessarily say, “Well, we’ve got a whole load of money to give you just because you’re under pressure.” We do say—we say to every other area

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