Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (10:58): I would like to rise in support of Dr Ratnam’s motion. These are uncertain times, and I think scrutiny and transparency is paramount to this.
I would like to open by also acknowledging the information that the government has been providing on a daily basis and acknowledging the very detailed information. I personally—and certainly I share it with my constituents—appreciate that. But with due respect, to say that a government-led committee such as the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee can provide that independent, transparent democracy that our community wants and deserves I think is somewhat disingenuous.
Certainly I think that our Public Accounts and Estimates Committee is the only committee around Australia that has a government chair. We are the only state that does not have that level of independent scrutiny of our Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.
So while I am very pleased to see Mr Limbrick being appointed to that committee—and that will enable greater scrutiny—I do not accept for a moment that this provides the type of transparent scrutiny that we need and that our community wants at this extraordinary time.
What comes out of select committees like this are actually the opportunities that this crisis has brought us. It would highlight the very excellent changes that have been made, changes that we may want to keep going forward. I see changes to our justice system now that I think are excellent and I hope that we continue them.
There are changes to housing. I mean, who would have thought at the beginning of this crisis when we had 280 rough sleepers on Melbourne’s streets that we would now have 24? These are some of the good things that the government has done, so I think the government should be welcoming this type of scrutiny.
Listening to Ms Shing I got the impression that had this committee been a joint select committee they would have been far more supportive of it.
The fact that the committee that is being suggested in this motion is only an upper house committee and will not be able to call on ministers or compel ministers from the other house to appear seems to be one of the sticking points for the government in not supporting this motion. It would be wonderful if the government was to actually announce that they would be putting up a joint select committee that was an independent committee. I think we would all welcome that, but certainly in our conversations over the last couple of weeks it did not seem like that was at all a possibility.
This is somewhat reduced scrutiny, but still I think it is an excellent committee nonetheless and an excellent motion nonetheless to establish this.
We do need transparency, and I would have hoped that the government would welcome this. In many ways this could highlight some of the very fast action and responsiveness that the government has taken to this pandemic as well as ensuring that what they are doing has the support of the community and has the support of this Parliament.
I thoroughly support this motion, and I do hope to see a committee of some sort providing some transparency and scrutiny to the work that the government is doing at the moment.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Motion to establish a select committee by Ms Ratnam 23/4/20
House divided on motion: