NT Government Abolishes Legislative Scrutiny Committee

Thursday 29 October 2020 @ 1.32 p.m. | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure | Legal Research

The ABC News has reported that the NT Goverment has “quietly axed the committees it created to scrutinise proposed laws and reversed changes it promised would increase transparency and accountability”.

Apparently, the changes were not flagged in advance, but Leader of Government Business Natasha Fyles told Parliament that “the changes were not significant and voters “want us to get on with the job”.”


The ABC News report says:

"The scrutiny committee has existed in its current form since Labor rolled the social and economic policy committees into one body in November.

It consisted of three government and two non-government members, who considered submissions on proposed laws from non-government groups and members of the public.

The original committees were introduced after Labor won office in 2016. The Government said they would help create "open and transparent government" and help restore trust after the tumultuous Giles government period."

Mrs Robyn Lambley (Independent Member for Araluen) told the ABC News that the changes would “erode democracy”. 

About the Committee

According to the Northern Territory Government, the role of the Committee is to “inquire into and report on any matter referred to it by the Assembly, a Minister or on its own motion and any Bill referred to it by the Assembly to consider whether the Assembly should pass the Bill or amend the Bill and whether the Bill has sufficient regard to the rights and liberties of individuals and the institution of Parliament”.

The Legislative Scrutiny Committee has already this year tabled reports for some significant NT Bills, including:

  • Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 (No 121 of 2020);
  • Judicial Commission Bill 2020 (No 125 of 2020); and
  • Treaty Commissioner Bill 2020 (No 119 of 2020).

Reaction and Comment

In a Media Release of 20 October 2020, the President of the Law Society of the Northern Territory, Maria Savvas, said:

“ … The Law Society Northern Territory (the Society) has expressed its deep concern at the Northern Territory Government’s decision to dissolve the Legislative Scrutiny Committee. The Legislative Scrutiny Committee played an important role in promoting this government’s commitment to transparency and accountability and its dissolution without public consultation is a backward step.”

The President went on to say that the “… Committee played an important and vital role in promoting good governance in the Northern Territory and the Society sees no evidence to suggest that its continued existence would in any way hinder the government’s ability to get on with the job of governing”.

In the view of the Law Society, if it was reinstated, it would assist in restoring the community’s faith in the parliamentary system and called on the Northern Territory Government to reconsider its decision and reinstate the Committee.

Reacting to the news of the Committee shutdown, Opposition Leader, Lia Finocchiaro said that a move by the Chief Minister indicates “... arrogance and hubris”. Speaking to Alice Springs News Online, Mrs Finocchiaro said that by closing down the Committee:

“Mr Gunner [Chief Minister] has scrapped the only opportunity the non-Government members will have this week to speak about the issues that matter for their constituents … This will erode democracy in the NT. These decisions are about a Government hiding from scrutiny and not wanting to be held to account.”

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