Territory Stories

Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017



Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017

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Parliamentary Record 5


Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




pp 1623 to 1686


Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Tuesday 9 May 2017 1664 I will finish on the point of petitions, and I welcome others to look at this issue. There was a lot of disagreement and debate about petitions amongst the select committee members. It was a contentious issue that came up repeatedly at all our meetings, because the people on the committees come from diverse backgrounds and represent diverse electorates. In my 5500 constituents there might be 2000 who feel passionate about a local issue. It is easy for me to get 2000 signatures on a petition, but if you are in a remote community you would be lucky if you can get a couple of hundred names. Does it matter whether or not they are on the electoral role, and does it diminish the voices of the people on those petitions? It is a robust debate and a good one for us to have, and I am glad we have started that conversation. In lots of ways this is just the beginning of the conversation. I am pleased that in 12 months we will have another look at this to see how it has worked. Queensland talked about doing this and has tweaked it along the way. We will have to suck it and see. I welcome the hard work that has been put into the report. We can continue to disagree; the important thing is that it is okay. What matters is the work of those committees. It may not be the names or specific functions, but it is the work and the outputs of committees that matter. Those are the two important things from me, along with acknowledgement of country and annual reports. Mr HIGGINS (Opposition Leader): Mr Deputy Speaker, we are quite happy with the report. The procedures of how this parliament functions and reviews legislation should constantly be opened to see whether we are doing it right and whether people feel they are involved. This process started during the term of the last government and has continued in this government, and the committee discussed a lot of different ways of doing that. Part of the problem we had on the committee was that we had new members who had not been through the parliament and they struggled a bit, but they did well in taking those things on board. It is interesting that if this report is adopted, one of the first pieces of legislation that could be passed out to one of these committees to look at is the floor space issue in the Liquor Act, but we will see if that happens. The recommendation in the report is to have the committees based around portfolios. There is still a bit of contention about whether that is accepted or not. While we would prefer portfolios, that constantly needs to be reviewed. The issue of petitions has caused much debate and there is some concern as to whether the number of people who sign a petition make it importantor is it if you have a whole group of people or demographic that are affected by it? A good example is a bush electorate. If you have a whole community of 200 sign a petition, how much weight does that carry compared to 2000 people out of the whole electorate? That is our concern. I believe that is something that needs to be thrashed out into the future. The other interesting thing is the hours around the estimates and around the annual report review. I have had a lot of discussions and the final outcome was that the total for the two of those would still remain at 60 hours. The opposition and Independents have discussed this at length, and we unanimously feel that a split of 50-50, if that is decided or put forward in the motion, would not be acceptable to any of us. The split of that 60 hours, especially in the first yearthere should be emphasis still on the estimates and then gradually move into a transition, and over time you work out how many hours you would need for each. We are very much of the view that the decision on that split should sit fairly and squarely with the Independents and the opposition. I will give you an example of why that should occur. If any government in the future wanted to avoid scrutiny of its budget, there is nothing to stop it allocating 59 hours to annual reports and one hour to estimates. That is a danger that we leave by allowing that to stay. The opposition and, I am sure, the Independents agree that those hours should be left for us to decide, more or less. The total hours are there, but it is a very important issue. The budget should be scrutinised. To alter the estimates process from 60 hours last year to just 30 hours this yearwe would not accept that lying down.