That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill was introduced by the member for Morphett in another place where it passed on 26 September. The member for Morphett along with myself, the Hons Tammy Franks and Russell Wortley from this place, and the members for Giles and Reynell from another place and the honourable minister make up the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee.
This bill seeks to remove the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation from the position of chairperson and restore authority to the committee itself. I am sure honourable members are aware that one of the burdens of being a minister of the Crown is having very little spare time. Unfortunately in recent years the minister (of which we have had many) has struggled to attend meetings of the committee. This hamstrings the committee in terms of quorum and dealings with operational business. This is conspicuous during deliberations on the annual report which must be signed off by the chairperson.
As well as the practical reasons just mentioned, from a legal and philosophical point of view having a minister of the Crown, a member of the executive branch chairing a parliamentary committee, of the legislative branch, raises questions regarding the separation of powers. This is probably inappropriate and definitely inhibits the committee’s ability to exercise oversight. Executive oversight should be one of the major roles of the committees of this place of which the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee is one, given our function as a house of review.
I acknowledge that the government is wholeheartedly supportive of this bill and I thank them for that, as is the minister whose own position he will dissolve when he presumably votes in favour of this bill. I applaud him for this magnanimous act. I think he realises that this is the most sensible way to go for the future of this—
The Hon. I.K. Hunter: It’s a sacrifice, Terry. It’s a sacrifice.
The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS: —great committee. I do acknowledge that it is a great sacrifice, minister. This committee does a lot of good work, visiting Aboriginal communities across the state as well as hearing from people at the forefront of issues in this challenging portfolio. Ultimately I think all in this parliament want the best outcomes for Aboriginal people in this state and the best way to achieve this is through multipartisan actions and having a committee which is completely unencumbered and has all members committed in word and deed.
For those members who are not aware of this issue, since its inception the minister has actually been the chairman. We have the ridiculous situation where the committee—and I think it is a very good committee—resolves to write to the minister, so we have the presiding member of the committee being the minister writing to himself, the minister. It is probably time that we freed up the minister and got on with doing the good work.
With those few words, I commend the bill to the council. If it is not too presumptuous of me, given that I seem to have indications of support from most people, I would like to call for a vote on this on the next Wednesday of sitting. If there are any members who have any concerns, I would be more than pleased to address them and, if someone needs more time, that is fine too but we really would like to get this through so that it can be in effect when the next parliament resumes.