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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2448..


MRS CARNELL (continuing):

bit of charity right now? I would like to present Mr Berry with a small token of my appreciation by giving him a bit of a hand as shadow Treasurer. Mr Speaker, it is a solar calculator; and I am sure it will come in very handy for Mr Berry because, as well, it comes from the State Bank. I would have thought a State Bank solar calculator was absolutely perfect for somebody from the Labor Party Left.

Acton Peninsula - Demolition of Buildings - Inquiries

MS REILLY: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister. Following the bungled appointment of the first inquiry into the failed hospital implosion, you belatedly moved to expand the terms of reference and set up a new inquiry. Questions about a perceived conflict of interest relating to a senior public servant from your own department who has been appointed as secretary to the Smethurst inquiry have been revealed by the Canberra Times of 13 August. The public servant appointed as secretary to the inquiry shares a management strata just below the head of administration's deputy. It was that deputy who answered questions in the Estimates Committee hearing in relation to the Acton demolition project. Considering the concern of the community about all the decisions and actions surrounding the failed hospital implosion, do you take these questions about a perceived conflict of interest seriously? What have you done to ensure the integrity of the inquiry?

MRS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, I did not move to change the terms of reference of the inquiry. Those opposite did that, and I think that is extremely important.

Mr Humphries: That is the question.

MRS CARNELL: That is it. That was part of the comment. She indicated that this Government moved. Wrong; those opposite moved.

The Smethurst board of inquiry is supported by a number of officers of the ACT Public Service, as is usually the case in any board of inquiry and as is required and expected under the terms of the Inquiries Act. There is no conflict of interest here, and this is the absolutely normal course of events. It happened with the Pearce inquiry; it happens with inquiries generally. While a number of these officers do have substantive positions within the Chief Minister's Department, while they work for the board of inquiry they are not subject to any direction from any person other than the board itself. If those opposite had bothered actually looking at the Act and looking at the way things work, they would know that. It is important to recognise that during the inquiry those officers work for the board of inquiry and not for the Government. The Government does not have the ability to interfere in the operations of the inquiry, and nor should it.

Again, I state that none of the officers supporting the inquiry have had any previous involvement in any of the matters that are covered by the inquiry's terms of reference. It is the appointed board that is responsible for the way it operates and any report or recommendations it makes. If General Smethurst is not happy with the support he is being given by those officers, then I will make arrangements for other officers to be made available; but I understand that General Smethurst has said that he is very happy with the


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