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 subject to the scrutiny of the Ombudsman. The only reason this issue arises in respect of the Liquor Commission and the Planning Authority is that some crusty CLP faithfuls have said that they do not like this new boy scrutinising what they are doing, and asking for reasons for their decisions. I am not making a personal attack on the Chairman of the Liquor Commission or the Chairman of the Planning Authority. I have known the Chairman of the Liquor Commission for many of years and I respect the new directions he has introduced. The Chairman of the Planning Authority is a former CLP minister. I have a mixture of personal affection for him as well as aggressive public opposition, as I am sure a number of the CLP ministers will be only too aware. I do not propose to canvass those issues or those relationships, but let there be no doubt that both the Liquor Commission and the Planning Authority are parts of the executive lower than Cabinet level and therefore should be subject to the Ombudsmans scrutiny. There is no question about it. I am quite happy to recognise that they are quasi-judicial authorities. Certainly, the Liquor Commission determines the rights and liabilities of various parties, but its capacity to do that does not exclude it from the scrutiny of the Ombudsman. It does not take it out of the executive. The case of the Planning Authority is even clearer. The Planning Authority merely makes recommendations to the minister. It is the minister himself who determines the rights and liabilities of applicants for rezoning etc. There can be no doubt that the Ombudsman has the capacity to scrutinise reasons for decisions, as he has in the case of the police force, the Department of Health and Community Services and so on. Members who take the trouble to read the Ombudsmans report when it is tabled in this Assembly should know that. There can be no doubt about the place of the Liquor Commission and the Planning Authority in the executive. I am using the word executive in contradistinction to the parliament and to the courts. It is fundamental to the doctrine of the separation of powers that the Ombudsman is there as an officer of the parliament, as an extension of the arms of members of this Assembly - as another lightning rod, if you like - to which Territorians can appeal when they feel that they have been dudded by an administrative decision. In the case of the Liquor Commission, it could be licensees or their association who feel the commission is not doing the right thing. The Liquor Act is very interesting. It has both criminal and bureaucratic aspects. Serving somebody who is under-age goes before the courts and is subject to the appeal structure of the courts. That is a decision of the courts and is not subject to the scrutiny of the Ombudsman. On the other hand, Liquor Commission decisions about who obtains a licence, when licences are reviewed etc, and the administrative processes involved are without doubt subject to the scrutiny of the Ombudsman. Quite reasonably, if a licensee or neighbour of a licensed establishment is aggrieved, the Ombudsman can ask the commission for the reason for the decision. The situation of the Director of Public Prosecutions is different because the associated conventions and the statutory arrangements are different. We should not allow ourselves to be drawn by the argument that has gone on in Victoria in respect of the office there. The conservative government in that state has played havoc with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. It has sought to impose, by administrative and legislative subterfuge, executive decisions by placing its own person there. That is not acceptable to the opposition. It should not be acceptable to anybody. 3581
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