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 1671 each Wednesday, and we brought forward general business to earlier in the afternoon to allow a higher level of community attendance and, therefore, scrutiny. The basic principles of accountability, probity and the free exchange of ideas are why we run for parliament. This parliament is enabled by the peaceful and orderly electoral process and a population of Territorians willing to place their trust in old institutions. These old institutions can and should be subject to continuous renewal. Territorians are very reasonably expecting more meaningful input and transparency from parliament and our government, and this government is willing to provide that for Territorians. The recommendation that we establish portfolio scrutiny committees is acceptable to the government, and we will seek to draft terms of reference this year. Portfolio scrutiny committees are commonplace in other jurisdictions, where they consider matters and bills. We have seen in other jurisdictions, especially Queensland, which is also a unicameral parliament, the immense benefit these committees brought. Indeed, in a unicameral parliament, generally the government has a majority and is able to pass bills with little review. The addition of a level of review in a scrutiny committee will add this much-needed layer. If the public has confidence that parliament properly considers important matters and legislation, it will have more confidence generally in the important institution of parliament. As we envisaged that these committees will be issues based rather than skills based, I think our committee Chairs will see real competition. Of course, we will need to allocate scrutiny committees time in order for them to properly perform their role of scrutiny. The work of committees is essentially the work of this Assembly. If we want scrutiny committees to properly function we need to ensure they have time, resources and facilities. This government is serious about getting that right. We are determined to ensure that when we make laws for Territorians they are good laws. It was a Labor government that first brought the vital function of the Estimates Committee to the NT Legislative Assembly, and it will take a Labor government to make improvements to estimates. The estimates process is the shining light of transparency, allowing members of parliament to cross-examine ministers and senior public servants on expenditure and the budget. It might be a bit uncomfortable for a minister or an agency head, but I am sure many Territorians would relish watching people squirm under the light of transparency during an estimates hearing, whether it be here or in another jurisdiction. As the Member for Nelson raised in his contribution to debate, who could ever forget that disgraceful moment in 2015 during estimates that saw a former Chief Minister read his answer very slowly to draw out the length of his response to escape scrutiny and thumb his nose at the noble intent of estimates. What a moment that was, a proud day for the former Member for Braitling as all his backers applauded him, no doubt. I think it summed up the previous government. They were happy to beat their chests when they had the upper hand, but cowered when we shone the lamp in their faces. It is important to reflect on the Member for Nelsons contributions regarding estimates. I have seen him on a number of occasions, a great estimates performer, as an Independent memberhe values good scrutiny. It was not just that example of a Chief Minister speaking ridiculously slowly and denigrating the system of scrutinyit was absolutely disgraceful from a first minister and elected official of the parliament. There were a lot of other tactics: the Dorothy Dixer questions, which I found very amusing, were purely designed as time wasters and would come one after another, especially late in the evening. When we saw them directed to a minister to deflect any real scrutiny, it was obvious the tactic was well designed, planned and implemented. Another one I remember from the last administration was the aggressive committee member who was put in a chair to intimidate opposition or Independent members in their questioning. They were extremely intimidating events. I saw colleagues, new to parliament and opposition, inflicted with this low and dishonourable tactic. It went on year after year. There were great challenges for the Chair of the committee, being a government member. I often wondered how the Chair really thought about that estimates tactic that was underhanded and deceitful, when the role of a Chair is so important in making sure the process is above reproach. The change that is proposed takes into account concerns, which were lessons vitally learned in this parliament. Those concerns have been raised by Territorians who lost faith in this system, particularly in the last four years of the CLP administration.

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