The Honourable Robert Schwarten
Parliament more than a building
Parliamentary buildings were no different from other publicly owned buildings, Minister for Public Works Robert Schwarten said today.
"Contrary to the view of the Speaker, John Mickel, and one academic, the buildings do not constitute the Parliament.
"When Parliament meets in Mackay in the new year, the Speaker will not have any responsibility for the upkeep of the building in which it meets," he said.
"That does not mean that the Parliament has any less authority or independence."
Mr Schwarten said it was the responsibility of Executive Government not the Speaker to maintain Parliament House.
"Parliament House was built by the Department of Public Works with taxpayers' money - in fact its construction was delayed because the government of the day ran out of money," he said.
"It is ridiculous to suggest that the same department over a century later should not maintain this building and organise building projects into the future.
"As for accountability, there is an absence of that at the moment, given that the Speaker has unfettered right to do as he pleases with these publicly owned buildings."
Mr Schwarten said the new committee system being proposed by the all-party committee would provide greater transparency and accountability across the board.
"By giving responsibility for these buildings back to the Department of Public Works, the public through Parliamentary Estimates will be able to determine whether sufficient resources are being allocated by the government of the day," he said.
"At the moment there is no such scrutiny - the Speaker sets the priority and that's the end of it.
Mr Schwarten said there was compelling evidence to change the model.
"The commentators arguing to keep the same system are missing the point.
"The Parliament is about the elected Members, how they behave, what laws they pass, not about where they meet.
"In Bjelke-Petersen's day, only Members who were prepared to kow tow to the government were approved as Speakers and, if the same disrespect for Parliamentary independence were to happen again, then who looks after the building would make no difference.
"If it is good enough for the Department of Public Works to maintain the residence of the Governor, which is a similarly independent office, then I would like to hear the sensible discussion which says Parliamentary buildings are different.
"Just because other Parliament Houses have a different model is, in my view, an unintelligent argument.
"We are creating a unique committee system and there is no logical or intelligent argument that says the Parliamentary building management model should stay the same," Mr Schwarten said.