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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2449..


MRS CARNELL (continuing):

staff that he currently has. To suggest that these officers are somehow moles for the Government - and I assume that is what those opposite are trying to say - is both to denigrate the professionalism of those officers and to question the ability of General Smethurst to operate as a board and to manage his own staff. It flies in the face of all previous practices under the Inquiries Act by governments of both sides and it is muckraking of the worst kind.

I have to say, Mr Speaker, the Canberra Times, along with others, including those opposite, who have questioned the professionalism of these officers, should be ashamed. In doing so they also question the professionalism of General Smethurst, because he has the responsibility and the requirement under the Act to run this inquiry in line with the Inquiries Act. I come back to the comment I made earlier. None of the officers supporting the inquiry have had any previous involvement in any matters that are covered by the terms of reference of this inquiry.

MS REILLY: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Has the public servant who is secretary to the Smethurst inquiry been involved in the transfer of functions from Urban Services to Totalcare and the selection of senior officers of Totalcare? Has he at any stage been involved in any aspect of the demolition of the hospital buildings, whether it was in the earlier land swap or in the organisation of the implosion event?

MR SPEAKER: Order! I will not allow that. I think it is about time that I made a statement in relation to sub judice. It is a detailed statement, but I will simply highlight three points that come from House of Representatives Practice, to which this Assembly is linked through standing order 275. House of Representatives Practice states:

Matters before royal commissions or other similar bodies which are concerned with the conduct of particular persons should not be referred to in proceedings if, in the opinion of the Chair, there is a likelihood of prejudice being caused as a result of the references in the House.

Matters before royal commissions or similar bodies dealing with broader issues of national importance should be able to be referred to in proceedings unless, in the opinion of the Chair, there are circumstances which would justify the convention being invoked to restrict reference in the House.

Further, House of Representatives Practice states:

The contemporary view is that a general prohibition of discussion of the proceedings of a royal commission is too broad and restricts the House unduly. It is necessary for the Chair to consider the nature of the inquiry. Where the proceedings are concerned with issues of fact or findings relating to the propriety of the actions of specific persons the House should be restrained in its references.

I would draw all members' attention to that. I would ask members who are asking questions and members who are answering them to be aware of those words.


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