The ACT Legislative Assembly is interesting and often significant. And we are Assembly ‘geeks’ because an important part of our work in looking out for the environment is to be aware of what is happening in the Assembly and on the business and regulations and reports and enquiries and questions and issues. So, it’s important to know about the Assembly Committees and who is on them.
Just a quick plug for committees: if you ever get disillusioned with parliaments go and have a look at the work of committees. You might still be disillusioned but there is usually thought and work done at committees without (all) the grandstanding of question time or speeches. Committees can and do explore new areas of policy and improve legislation. Committees can also get information on the record, provide a focus on matters which need attention (which might include alerting the Government to issues) and uncovering or highlighting issues within the Government.
And now to the really geeky part here is a colour-coded table of the MLAs on the ACT Legislative Assembly committees. The ones in red are Labor, the blues are Liberal and we chose green for the Greens.
One Committee is established under standing orders – the Administration and Procedure Committee – and it has the Speaker and a Minister (Rattenbury) on it. It deals with how to make the Assembly work with rules, allocation of time to debates and speakers and other matters.
The other Standing Committees are established for the term of the Assembly (four years) by resolution of the Assembly and generally do not have Ministers or the Speaker as members. So the Liberals, with eleven MLAs, can share their membership of the Committees so that they only have one or two memberships each. Labor uses six of its twelve MLAs as Ministers and a Speaker so the others have to be on several committees. One of the two Greens MLAs is a Minister so their is only one available for committees, Caroline Le Couteur. She is on two Committees, the only two Committees with five members. Otherwise all committees have two Labor and two Liberal members and it is sometimes difficult to get agreed recommendations under these circumstances.
There are also Select Committees which are set up for a specific purpose and with a limited lifespan. Two of these were established in the first sitting week of the current (ninth) Assembly:
- Select Committee on 2016 ACT Election and Electoral Act
- Select Committee on an Independent Integrity Commission
But not everything gets a Select Committee. The Conservation Council had written to all parties requesting they consider establishing a Select Committee on “Canberra – Our Pathway to Zero Net Emissions”. We thought it was good to follow up on the policy that all the current parties had taken to the election of support for zero net greenhouse gas emissions from the ACT by 2050 at the latest.
This policy matched the Community Shared Statement for ACT 2016 election so there was a letter of support from a range of peak community organisations in Canberra.
The Conservation Council also provided draft terms of reference as a starting point for developing a Select Committee.
So, even though all of the political parties in the Legislative Assembly have said they support zero net greenhouse gas emissions from the ACT by 2050 at the latest, none has so far indicated how they will go about building a pathway to get there. Perhaps they are thinking about it…