Page 2690 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013
So that is the position that we find ourselves in. We are at a crossroads. Do we really say that the committees are just there for show, that the committees are there just to give the appearance that we are doing something to enforce scrutiny? The Latimer House principles say they are to “enforce the accountability of the executive to parliament”. Or are we actually going to have a committee structure that does that?
It is up to the will of the Assembly to decide that today. I certainly encourage members to support my motion. I make it very clear that should the opposition gain a majority on committees, as the Clerk has advised, we will not use it recklessly. It will be used responsibly. We will be judged on that, because if there are opposition majorities on committees, people will understand that these are dominated by the opposition and if we are simply running a political agenda through them I think that would be recognised.
There is no intent, from my point of view, from the opposition’s, to act recklessly. But there is a view and a determination to make sure that this place runs as best it can, that we adhere to the Latimer House principles, the resolution that we have adopted, and that we have mechanisms that hold the government to account, the executive to account, to the parliament. If we do not do that today, we would have to look at reviewing the continuing resolution and see whether we need that or not—whether it is serving any purpose at all or whether it is just rhetoric. And that would be disappointing.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (10.43): The government will not support Mr Hanson’s motion. I am going to call this as I see it: I do not believe Mr Hanson is interested in the effective functioning of the Assembly’s committee system; I think it is more about how he can use committees to obstruct, to intimidate and to grandstand. Mr Hanson’s conduct on the budget estimates committee and in the chamber this week gives you a glimpse into how these proposed committees as outlined in the motion would function. We have heard from other members in this place how, as chair of the committee he bullied, badgered and obstructed government committee members and some committee witnesses. In drafting the report he ignored the written advice of the Clerk, and he now claims that the report he forced through with his own particular chairing style is the fair and unanimous view of the committee. I think it is a terrible advertisement for this motion, and it is not a standard the government wants to see any more of.
The core function of the committee system is to carry out business on behalf of the Assembly and to scrutinise government in an effective and efficient way. By delegating matters to standing committees, the Assembly is delegating its business so that we, as a whole, can process all the business associated with governing the ACT. Standing Order 221 dictates that a committee shall comprise representatives of all groups and parties in the Assembly as nearly as practicable proportional to their representation in the Assembly. In this Assembly, that means one to one or two to two. The Canberra Liberals do not have a majority of two to one in the Assembly; if they did, they would be in government. In order to maintain the appropriate representation, government committee members sit on many committees—more than opposition members.