NT Legislative Assembly Implements New Method of Making Laws

Tuesday 12 September 2017 @ 10.38 a.m. | Legal Research

The NT Legislative Assembly (the Assembly) has announced it will now refer every Bill (unless it is urgent) to either the Social Policy Committee or the Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee.

The relevant Committee will then seek public submissions and if needed, hold hearings on the Bill, before reporting back to the Assembly on whether the Bill should be passed or amended.  The Committee will also report on whether the Bill complies with fundamental legislative principles. The Member introducing a Bill will need to table a statement on the Bill’s compatibility with human rights.

The Committees

The Committees and their relevant Members are:

  • Social Policy Scrutiny Committee - Ms Ngaree Ah Kit MLA (Chair); Mrs Lia Finocchiaro MLA; Mrs Robyn Lambley MLA (Deputy Chair); Ms Sandra Nelson MLA and Mr Chansey Paech MLA.
  • Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee - Mr Tony Sievers MLA (Chair); Mr Jeff Collins MLA (Deputy Chair); Fong Lim; Mr Gary Higgins MLA; Ms Selena Uibo MLA and Mr Gerry Wood MLA.

The Committees will examine the Bills referred to them, and inquire into matters within their subject areas referred by the Assembly, a Minister, or on its own motion.

The first Bill the Assembly has referred to a Committee (the Social Policy Scrutiny Committee) for public consultation is the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bill 2017 (No 30 of 2017) (the ICAC Bill).

Background to the ICAC Bill

The aim of the Bill is to create an Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC), a new anti-corruption watchdog for the NT.  The Commission will have a wide remit, but is focused on addressing the most serious corruption in the NT public sector. The Bill is a step towards delivering on the Government’s commitment to implement in principle, 50 of the 52 recommendations of the Report by Commissioner Martin AO QC, as a result of his Anti-Corruption, Integrity and Misconduct Inquiry (the Martin Report).

One change that was made is that the ICAC will be able to investigate corruption in local government elections as well as Territory elections, whereas Recommendation 12 of the Martin Report refers only to offences against the Electoral Act (No 11 of 2004).

The ICAC replaces the Commissioner for Public Interest Disclosures, and the ICAC Bill repeals the Public Interest Disclosure Act (No 38 of 2008) and has more substantial powers and a broader remit than the Commissioner for Public Interest Disclosures. It does not replace any other existing law enforcement or integrity body. The ICAC created by the Bill is an independent statutory office holder, but has broader jurisdiction and more extensive powers than the Commissioner for Public Interest Disclosures. Notably, the ICAC can investigate any public officer, including Members of the Legislative Assembly, and can do so of its own motion.

Reaction to the Committees

Chair of the Social Policy Scrutiny Committee, Ms Ah Kit (MLA) said:

“This review of Bills by committees will significantly improve the Territory’s law-making process by giving everyone a chance to have their say and providing more rigorous scrutiny of Bills. This is particularly important for a Parliament like ours, which does not have a second House of review … Having a committee inquire into each Bill before it is debated in the Assembly will better inform the Assembly’s consideration and provide the opportunity to amend Bills in response to concerns raised by the public … The Social Policy Scrutiny Committee’s inquiry into the ICAC Bill gives everyone the opportunity to put on the public record whether they think the Bill should be passed, changed, or defeated. Submissions will be made public unless they contain confidential matters, and will inform the Committee’s report and the Assembly’s debate. I encourage all with an interest in the Bill to make their views known.”

Current Status of the ICAC Bill

The Social Policy Scrutiny Committee is now calling for submissions on the ICAC Bill, which are due by 29 September 2017 and for Public Hearings to be held on 9 October 2017 where the Committee will make recommendations regarding whether to pass or amend the Bill.

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Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee – NT Government Legislative Assembly

Social Policy Scrutiny Committee – NT Government Legislative Assembly

Call for Submissions – Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bill – NT Government Media Release

Explanatory Statement, Media Release and Supporting Information - Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bill 2017 (No 30 of 2017). Available from TimeBase LawOne Service

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