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Premier – Number of Portfolios

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 23 November 2020

Tags: Cabinet

Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, you are the party of small government. There are 36 portfolios shared amongst nine ministers, including portfolios that we can only begin to wrap our minds around like, for example, Strategic Growth, which as I understand does not administer a single act. As a result of allowing 36 portfolios to mushroom out of your Cabinet, the Estimates schedule this year robs areas of public policy of very significant public interest of time for scrutiny. For example, Small Business, Hospitality and Events has twice the time allocated than Environment does, twice the time for Parks, and four times the amount of time for Aboriginal Affairs and for Climate Change. As we know, climate change is the single biggest challenge that this state faces in the future. Do you agree that 36 portfolios are far too many, and were you consulted on the Estimates schedule which has robbed really significant areas of portfolio scrutiny of time?

Mr GUTWEIN - Let me provide for the Estimates committee my understanding of what went on and how we have arrived where we have.

The structure of the 2020 budget Estimates committees remains essentially unchanged from previous years and as previously agreed by Labor and the Greens.

Ms O'CONNOR - Not true.

Mr GUTWEIN - The 63 hours allocated for budget Estimates this year is the same as every other year. The total time for deliberations in the budget session is 97 hours of scrutiny. My understanding is that the Government worked cooperatively and constructively with the Opposition, Greens and Independent members regarding the draft timetable.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, not true.

Mr GUTWEIN - This is the advice I have received. Requests for variations to the timetable have been, where possible, taken on board. It is for the Opposition and Greens committee members to come to a consensus approach as to the allocation of time for portfolios as appropriate.

They must have known you were going to ask me this question. It is wrong and entirely misleading of the Leader of the Greens to categorise the Government as somehow shielding a specific portfolio from debate. In fact, the reason this note has been written is because you made some comments last Thursday that I was listening to.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is right, but so the record is really clear, the Leader of Government of Business, in his email that he sent out, invited members to get back to him, and we did. Last year two separate portfolios, Environment and Parks, had a total of five hours allocated to scrutiny. This year it is two hours.

CHAIR - I remind the committee that this was a resolution that was passed in the House.

Ms O'CONNOR - I understand that, but the Premier didn't speak on it and I am interested in his thoughts.

CHAIR - He has answered your question, and the call goes to Mr Ellis.

Mr GUTWEIN - I had nothing to do with the negotiations that you, on that side of the table, had in terms of time frames.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thirty-six portfolios.

Mr GUTWEIN - We are an engaged and diligent government.