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Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2021

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 2 September 2021

Tags: Parliament, Custodial Inspector, State Budget, Treasury

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I made a number of comments that encompassed Appropriation Bill (No. 2) in my second reading speech on Appropriation Bill (No. 1). However, I will raise with the House the Custodial Inspector's report.

As we know, the Custodial Inspector, although an independent statutory entity, is also the Ombudsman. While I listened carefully to the corrections minister's answer to the Greens' question this morning, there is a very significant resourcing issue for the Custodial Inspector, identified by the Custodial Inspector himself, where there are effectively two people undertaking this vital work across our corrections system. There is no apparent increase in resourcing to the Custodial Inspector to accommodate very grave concerns that have been raised by that body. It needs to be placed on the record that this role is manifestly underfunded.

I also bring to the House's attention that we have followed up on the issue we raised with the Speaker concerning the access that non-government members, and indeed, Government backbenchers, have to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, because have had a most unsatisfactory response from the Speaker to date. The Greens still maintain that this House has been robbed of around $300 000 in funding that was allocated to provide drafting support to non government members - money that sat untapped for the first year, and then was moved into the Department of Premier and Cabinet, into the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

That was money that was promised to members of this House. It was money that the Greens negotiated with the previous Speaker to make sure there is high quality drafting for non government members who wish to bring bills forward. Yet here we are, still in exactly the same position we were in three years ago. Unlike most state parliaments around the country - and indeed, across the Westminster world - members in this place cannot access the OPC, which means a couple of things.

It means we are not getting quality legislation initiated and drafted by the Opposition at the moment, because they do not have the drafting capacity that we do internally. It also means that when you are debating a bill and you want to draft amendments that are appropriately worded, the support is not there. This basically means that this Government, through its underhand act in taking that $300 000 away from non government members, is quite happy for shoddy legislation with average amendments to leave this place and go upstairs.

As I have said before, we are not fighting this fight for the Greens, because we have drafting capacity within our office, as is evidenced by the number of high quality, well drafted bills we have laid on the table. We raise this for democracy, for good governance, for quality legislation, and so that every member of this place who is not in the Government party room or in Cabinet can have some access to a very specialised area of the law.

We have not had a satisfactory response from the minister. It has been utterly underhand, the way in which $300 000 was taken away from the Legislature General, and we have not yet had a satisfactory response from the Speaker, who wants to be the gatekeeper between members and parliamentary counsel, should a member in this place want some support in having legislation or amendments drafted. It is a disgrace. We think it is underhand, and an act of theft from this place.