Page 4172 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 26 November 2013
might address other matters that may continue to improve the ability of the Assembly to operate with the best possible effect for the citizens of the territory.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (10.35), in reply: My views on this issue are well known to the Assembly. I thank other members for their contribution to the debate. These views of mine have been shaped by more than a decade as a minister and now as Chief Minister watching the business of government expand. They have also been shaped by numerous inquiries which have recommended a larger ministry for the ACT. Of course my views on the size of the ministry are intertwined with my views on the size of the Assembly, which I will come to later.
While it is something of a compromise position, today is an important first step. The Australian Capital Territory (Ministers) Bill 2013 (No 2) gives the Assembly an important opportunity to move towards ensuring good governance in the ACT for the long term. It recognises that the existing demands on ministers spanning 25 portfolios can be excessive. Keeping abreast of day-to-day matters, being responsive to the Assembly, community members, media, and being prepared to act immediately on priority issues are challenges which become greater as Canberra grows. As I said earlier this year, our ministry succeeds under these demands because of how hard and effectively ministers work, but if the executive is not able to restructure to accommodate the increased demands being placed on it, we do create significant risks to effective governance for the ACT in the future.
When I discussed the size of the ministry with members of the expert reference group following their report into the size of the Assembly, I was advised that a ministry of between eight and nine members would be appropriate for the ACT. Creating this capacity would help bring us closer to jurisdictions such as the Northern Territory and Tasmania which have nine and eight ministers respectively.
While I accept that our small geographical size makes the functioning of the ACT ministry easier on one hand, the more extensive responsibilities of our city-state jurisdiction more than compensate for the time that we may save on travelling. That is why, as an Assembly, we must begin the process of reform.
With the passage of this bill, the Chief Minister of the day will have the ability to shape the ministry which best meets the needs of the community. It provides for a ministry of up to nine, not as a prescription but as an option, so that governments can adapt to the make-up of the Assembly and the policy challenges they face. The bill also provides for an incremental process of change, creating the legislative mechanism for a process which may occur over numerous terms of government.
If you look at the origins of the Legislative Assembly in the self-government act, this evolution was intended. The act, as it was passed in 1988, made provision for a ministry of up to five members but allowed for the government of the day to legislate for more ministers as and when the need arose. This need has arisen. It has been documented by various reviews into governance in the ACT and borne out by experience. I think all members share the view that the size of Canberra today and the