Tuesday 3 June 2003


CHAIR - The only question I believe we have is on 1.2, Select Committee Support Services, and 1.3 Investigative Committee Support Services. Mr Finch has the call.

Mr FINCH - Mr Premier, we have two joint committees now - Community Development and Environment, Resources and Development. What is the increased financial commitment on the House of Assembly to service to those committees?

Mr ALCOCK - Well, I do not think there is any actual increase. As you can see, the budget variation for the current financial year is an extra $1 000 - from $94 000 to $95 000 - which was the amount of money that was originally set aside when those two committees were established as House of Assembly committees only, and the greater portion of it goes to staffing costs.

Mr FINCH - We have the scheduling of three committee weeks during the year now for those committees to function. Do you have a comment on the scheduling of them? Are they are working much better now?

Mr JIM BACON - I think it makes sense to set down weeks for the committees to sit. It ensures that there are regular sittings. However, it is essentially a matter for the committees - how they operate, when they meet and so on. Certainly the Government has no wish to hamper in any way the work of the committees. We want them to be able to operate effectively. It is really a matter for the committees when they choose to meet; we support them in their work and the Government will cooperate fully with information and appearances by ministers before committees and so on.

Mr FINCH - What sort of feedback are you getting about the work of those committees?

Mr JIM BACON - The straight answer to that is that I haven't had very much feedback about it that I can recall in recent times. I think the committees have done some very useful work in relation to some of the issues that have been brought up - notably the question of custodial grandparents, which was done recently. I cannot say I have had direct feedback about it, but of course I have had a letter from the Chair of the Committee with a copy of the report. I think that is a good example of an issue in the community which, had it not been for the work of the committee, would have been relatively unrecognised. The issue of grandparents having the sole caring responsibilities for small children is obviously a matter of great importance to a number of people, and without the work of the committee it would have remained a hidden phenomenon. I think the committees can be very useful in promoting public debate around these issues and that is particularly so with issues that do not commonly get much attention. I think that was a very good example of where a committee is very useful in informing the Government of the ins and outs of an issue and what the pressures are. Certainly it will lead to us looking at what we can do to assist those people in the future. That is not to say that we are totally ignorant of the situation - of course we are not. I think each of us individually probably knows - as I do - of people in that situation. The committee hearing gave people in the community the opportunity to come forward and speak openly about their own experiences, which can then inform the whole Parliament and the Government of areas into which we need to put greater effort.