Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995
Parliamentary Record 11
Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 23 May 1995 country. Here, in the dying days of the Chief Ministership of Marshall Perron, we have a tired little effort to further restrict the checks and balances that operate in every other jurisdiction around Australia. It bothers me that this bill has been brought before the Assembly. I do not believe that it is appropriate. In considering how I have come to that view, I remind honourable members, as the Chief Minister did not bother to do, that exactly these issues were raised in the Ombudsmans report a year or 2 ago. My recollection of the ministers second-reading speech is that he failed to refer to exactly that fact. To take the Ombudsman, judicious as he is - 1 use the term judicious advisedly, and I will come back to that - does not mean that the Ombudsman, in requesting clarification of his powers in that regard, was supporting a decision that the Liquor Commission, the Planning Authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions should have their decisions, which affect the rights and liabilities of large numbers of Territory citizens, removed from his capacity to scrutinise. I believe this is fundamentally wrong in principle. It is a backward step for public administration in the Northern Territory. If the Chief Minister wants to say, when he sums up on this bill, that the Ombudsman referred to questions raised, presumably through the bloody-mindedness of the occupants of the offices concerned who refused to provide reasons, or at best quibbled about providing reasons, for decisions that had been the subject of representations to the Ombudsman, he had better think again. I will not accept it, and I do not believe any member of this Assembly, who has a good idea of why he or she is here, will accept it either. If the people on the government benches think that government in the Northern Territory equates with the CLP and that government in the Northern Territory is simply another corporate enterprise, they will probably support this. However, if they have any sensitivity or any understanding at all of their role as members of a parliament, they will reject this, root and branch. Basically, the Ombudsman is an officer of the parliament. I objected when the Chief Minister took over this area - when he decided to have a holiday after the last election and gave himself responsibility for the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman and for absolutely nothing else. He sent the message loud and clear and, in my view, the Auditor-General has copped it. Fortunately, since self-government, we have had a tradition of Ombudsmen who have been prepared to be independent. I am not sure that I can say the same about the Auditors-General we have had, but I will leave that open. It is not an issue for debate here. The Ombudsmen that we have had in the Northern Territory have been men of independent mind who have been able to bring independent judgment to issues of public administration in the Northern Territory. However, with this bill, the judgment of such men will be removed from crucial areas of public administration. This is not acceptable to me, nor is it acceptable to the Leader of the Opposition, who has carriage of these amendments, and it should not be acceptable to any member of this Assembly. I want to draw a distinction between the Liquor Commission and the Planning Authority on one side and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on the other. Some different conventions and principles apply. I will dispense very quickly with the decisions of the Liquor Commission and the Planning Authority. There can be no doubt that they are anything other than executive decisions - anything other than public administration decisions which should be 3580
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