Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 2 June 2015) . . Page.. 1880 ..
I am not quite sure where to start with this particular description. It is, at a superficial level, a wonderful example of the pollie waffle that I guess we have become used to from Minister Burch, referring as it does to “thematically focused, multisectoral time-constrained forums”. I am sure there is a bureaucrat somewhere quite chuffed that their particular phrases are now part of Hansard history. If you translate them into plain speak, the minister appears to be suggesting that she wants to be able to get advice about particular issues in a timely manner, and not just necessarily from people within the education sector.
I have to ask: where do the current councils fail in being able to deliver such information to the minister? It would seem that the minister has not been a frequent user of their services. Perhaps if she were, she might have found the resources already at hand.
The minister says:
Cross-sectoral, theme-based advisory arrangements would also support the government’s agenda in streamlining services and operating in a one-service environment with the aim of making interaction and engagement with the government as simple and straightforward for the community as possible.
As an aside, I have to seriously ask if the minister did not have perhaps just a small hesitation about the speech she was delivering.
If the intent of these changes was part of a government red tape reduction strategy, why not say so? I can accept that the two councils appeared large and probably did not need quite so many representatives, but there can be no doubting the breadth of available skills and interests contained in them. I can only ask what the minister was thinking in wanting to throw out two advisory councils that by any measure could be regarded as a great resource, particularly if they had been used to their full capacity. There was little financial impost insofar as the previous councils did not attract sitting fees and, as the new potential committee or committees will be, were serviced from within existing directorate secretarial resources.
As I said, moving amendments to the Education Act is not a regular occurrence. The minister could easily have accessed the extensive resources within these two councils for advice on any number of subjects without the need to disband the existing arrangements.
When I look at the composition of the sitting councils, I see that the chair of the Government Schools Education Council is Craig Curry. I understand he will also be the chair of the proposed new committee. Why go to such lengths to effect changes that could have been managed in a simpler manner? I then look at the current legislation and the amendments and see one quite important difference. Under the current legislation, the minister must appoint members to these two councils, and she is obliged to select from a list delivered, put forward, from various sectors. Presumably then she is also obliged to receive information from them and meet with them. Under the amendments there is no compulsion for the minister to do anything. Section 126 states: