Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 19 October 2016



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 19 October 2016

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Parliamentary Record 1


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




pp 65 to 124


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 Wednesday 19 October 2016 68 the Opposition who reminded us of that. Both of them would like credit! I am happy to share it. That is what this is about, working together and sharing thoughts. During the last parliament we saw, time and time again, that this parliament was not respected. The government did not respect the valuable voices of members, who represent their communities. I saw that repeatedly with the local police issues in my community. The then minister for Police, the Chief Minister, refused to listen to me. He did not want that input. This committee would help change that. Members of this committee would look into options to make sure that, in the legislative process, all voices are heard. Highly-partisan speakers can make a mockery of the rules of parliament. We have seen that in other parliaments, and probably in our own parliament. We believe that having you as an Independent Speaker, Madam Speaker, highlights the independence of the authority in this parliament. Territorians want assurances that, regardless of who is in government, both sides of the Chamber will be treated fairly and be allowed to have a fair say. The committee will also be invited to consider reforms to Question Time. We have already indicated that we would like to make Question Time open and transparent. I will bring another motion to the House next week about making Question Time on Wednesdays purely for the opposition and Independent members; we will not have questions from government backbenchers. Questions from government backbenchers are important in sharing information on how the government is doing its job, but it is also important, with this government being open and transparent, that we allow extra time to the opposition and Independent members. I look forward to bringing that motion to the House next week. Question Time is an opportunity for the non-government members to seek information on government decisions and the impact on their communities, then share that information with their communities. We need to ensure Question Time serves that purpose on behalf of the community, and we do not see it descend into a point-scoring episode. The committee may also consider changes to the estimates process to increase the scrutiny and oversight of government spending. I am proud that it was a former Labor government that introduced the estimates process in the Northern Territory. It was one the first acts of the new government in 2001 and of our then Deputy Chief Minister. He knew well that good government was not possible without scrutiny. Over the past 15 years we have seen the estimates process expand in both time and scope. It is now appropriate for this parliament, through this committee, to review those arrangements to ensure they continue to serve their purpose. One possible reform, suggested in our Reforming our Democracy discussion paper is to split the Estimates Committee process into two separate one-week blocks. The first week would be timed soon after the annual Territory Budget, which is what happens now, in order to provide opposition and Independent MLAs the opportunity to scrutinise proposed government expenditure. The second week would review what money was spent on, via the scrutiny of the departments annual reports. This would also provide an opportunity to ensure program milestones are being met in line with community expectations. This is an important part of the process, rather than just doing it once when the Budget is being put it place, let us take the timewe put the Budget in place and scrutinise it, then when the annual reports come out, which are so often forgotten, let us use that information and scrutinise the government and government agencies once again. The committee could also consider a review of the standing orders. We need to make sure our standing orders meet their intended purpose: to maintain order and facilitate debate. Madam Speaker, you certainly maintain order here, but we need to make sure the standing orders facilitate the debate as openly as possible. We need to make sure they keep up with modern best practice. It is widely recognised that it is best practice for parliaments to regularly review their standing orders, and we look forward to such a review occurring during this Thirteenth Legislative Assembly. To ensure the parliament is accessible to Territorians, the committee will also be asked to consider options for opening up the parliament to the people. Options could include presentations to parliament through the committee process from community groupsbringing important, key stakeholders in here and letting them engage with our parliamentary process. We need to regain the trust of Territorians in our parliament, and what better way to do it than to provide key input from stakeholders. These are just some of the options that this committee, if established today, can look into.