Page 4927 - Week 13 - Thursday, 2 November 2017
In summary, these amendments will make it clear that the Speaker cannot appoint the officers of the Legislative Assembly unless satisfied that the applicants meet relevant legislative criteria and until a relevant committee has agreed with the appointment. They also enable the Speaker to seek administrative support and advice either from the Office of the Legislative Assembly, except for matters relating to itself, or from a suitably impartial and independent entity.
Also in these amendments is the reinstatement of the fixed, non-renewable term of seven years for the Auditor-General. This had dropped out inadvertently in the introduction of the officers of the Legislative Assembly provisions. Importantly, the provision was in place when the current Auditor-General was appointed, so there is no impact on that appointment. I note that the scrutiny committee considered this element, regarding it as having no human rights consequences.
A very important amendment is made to the Financial Management Act 1996. The primary purpose of establishing the officers of the Legislative Assembly was to put them at a level that is not governed or influenced by either ministers or the bureaucracy. For them to be effective they must be truly independent and be seen to be so. In this bill there is an amendment that cements this separation of powers and puts beyond doubt the independence of the officers of the Assembly. It removes the requirement in the Financial Management Act that officers of the Legislative Assembly manage their agencies in a way that “is not inconsistent with the policies of the government”. In this connection I note that the Speaker will be introducing some amendments to this bill, and I thank her for the advice she has provided in relation to those amendments thus far.
In considering the bill the ACT Auditor-General drew to the Speaker’s attention an inadvertent restriction on the status of privilege that was intended for the officers of the Assembly. This status was removed inadvertently in the drafting of the original legislation establishing the officers of the Assembly legislation in 2013. The amendments that the Speaker will propose today clarify and enshrine that status of privilege for the officers of the Assembly, and the opposition will also be supporting those amendments.
An opportunity to streamline the Speaker’s functions under the Legislative Assembly Precincts Act 2001 was also taken in these amendments. The Speaker will be able to delegate the role of approving licences for community use of the Assembly facilities. OLA SOGCs and above will be able to give these approvals. It will make the process more efficient for many community organisations to use the Assembly’s facilities. Many of the people involved in the organisations are volunteers, who should not be bound up in too much or unnecessary process and red tape. Hopefully, this amendment will make their interaction and engagement with the Assembly and its facilities easier and more enjoyable. Of course, if there is any doubt about whether a licence should be issued, OLA will be able to refer the matter to the Speaker for consideration and a decision.
On the very rare occasion when someone comes into the building and engages in anti-social behaviour, OLA will not have to run up to the Speaker’s office to see if the