The Opposition CLP and Territory Alliance used the first sittings of the new Parliament to attack the Gunner Government over its move to scrap integrity measures it introduced in 2016 that it said would “restore trust in government”.
Leader of Government Business Natasha Fyles moved to introduce new sessional orders – the rules the Parliament operates under – that included scrapping the legislative scrutiny committee, and giving the Labor Government more time to ask itself questions in Question Time, thereby reducing opposition questions.
CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro lashed out at the Gunner Government, saying the changes to the rules and the scrapping of the legislative oversight committee showed they were “running from scrutiny”.
“It appears you have fogged up, in the fog after the election,” she said.
“The Chief Minister said himself that not only is open government the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. That’s what you said back then. Chief Minister, your election commitment … ‘Labor believes that opening up Parliament to the community leads to better decision making and more effective government’. Well, Chief Minister, I’d be very keen to know, as would Territorians, whether you still believe what you said?
“It’s absolutely arrogant and it comes as a great surprise that the very group of people who created this mechanism of democracy are going to be the very people … to destroy it and banish it from the system.”
Ms Finocchairo added that changing Wednesday Question Time to permit Dorothy Dixers from the government’s backbenchers showed Labor was “a little bit terrified” of the larger CLP Opposition, which has grown from two members last term to eight for the 14th Assembly.
“You’re trying to shut us down at every opportunity .. you’re closing down debate,” she said. “You’re not going to get away with fundamental erosions of accountability like the one you’re proposing today.”
Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley also criticised the government’s scrapping of the scrutiny committee and changes to Question Time.
“They’ve got a hell of a lot to hide so it’s perfectly rational to understand why they want to get rid of the scrutiny committee, but it says nothing about the democracy within this Parliament,” she said.
Ms Fyles told the cross benchers to get over it and said they were only objecting to the changes “for the sake of it”.
“They cannot accept the verdict Territorians elected the Gunner Government,” she said. “We need to make sure we don’t have a bureaucratic barricade especially during the times we’re in.”
“What we’ve seen from the Leader of the Opposition is she just has no confidence in her team to provide scrutiny of these bills.
“What we saw from the scrutiny committee was around 90 per cent of the bills went through with no issues. There is still processes, there is still the scrutiny that stood for 38 years when a bill comes into the chamber … it goes through a passage of scrutiny, which is called you as shadow ministers.”
The first day of Parliament was taken up with formalities, maiden speeches of newly-elected MLAs and the election of Labor MLA Ngaree Ah-Kit as Speaker, with Labor Member for Blain Mark Turner elected Deputy Speaker.
The Gunner Government also committed to have an independent speaker, as part of their “restoring integrity to Parliament” pledge, which was also scrapped for this term of Parliament.