22 June 2017

Committees: the little known way to have your say

| Tara Cheyne MLA
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Community consultation

The ACT Legislative Assembly’s Planning and Urban Renewal Committee is currently holding an inquiry into billboards in the ACT. All members of the public were invited to provide a submission to the inquiry with the closing date being Tuesday 20 June. As a member of that Committee, I’ve been pleased to see that the inquiry’s attracted a lot of interest and, importantly, submissions to it: Committees rely on a diversity of views being presented.

Committees have a strong role across all parliaments in Australia and take on a range of functions; an important one of these is considering public policy issues. But did you know the issue of billboards in the ACT is just one area of public policy Committees are currently examining? The ACT Assembly, in fact, has seven standing Committees (established for the life of the Assembly) and three select Committees (established to consider a specific matter in a more defined timeframe) considering a range of issues. Each committee has, at a minimum, two Government and two Opposition members (four of the committees also have a Crossbench member).

Just like the Billboards inquiry, all of these public policy inquiries have been self-referred—that is, the members of the Committee decided to inquire into these topics themselves (including Billboards) rather than having the Assembly refer the topics to them. And, just like the Billboards inquiry, all of them have sought or are currently seeking views from individuals, experts, organisations and any other interested party.

In addition, the Public Accounts Committee is reviewing the Auditor-General’s reports on Certain Land Development Agency Acquisitions (submissions due 30 June 2017) and WorkSafe ACT’s management of its regulatory responsibilities for the demolition of loose-fill asbestos contaminated houses.

While I can’t speak on behalf of any of the Committees, I suspect they would all welcome as many submissions as possible to help them gain a good understanding of the views in and across the community. Once submissions close, organisations and individuals can be invited to appear at a hearing, which any member of the public can attend.

On top of all that, every year an Estimates Committee is established to inquiry into the ACT Appropriation Bill for the next financial year (aka the Budget). An Estimates Committee is in operation right now! Again, anyone can attend the public hearings which are held every day from now until 30 June. The schedule is here.

So what are you waiting for? If you’ve got an opinion on these issues, make sure you take a moment to have your say. There’s a helpful guide here on how to make a submission, but submissions can be as short as a sentence. Just remember to include the name of the committee and inquiry, your name, a postal address and contact number and an e-mail address.

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