Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 8 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2516..
Mr Berry: Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Mrs Carnell may have inadvertently misled the Assembly there. My recollection of the legislation - I do not have it in front of me - is that you have power to direct the commissioner to conduct inquiries.
MRS CARNELL: That is exactly what we did.
Mr Berry: You just told us that you had no power to direct. That is the point.
MRS CARNELL: We have no capacity to direct a Health Complaints Commissioner. We asked the Health Complaints Commissioner to have an inquiry into this. We have every capacity to write - I think it is under section 11 or 13 - to the Health Complaints Commissioner and ask him to conduct an inquiry. We then have no capacity to direct the Health Complaints Commissioner on how quickly they put an inquiry into place, or, for that matter, how to conduct that inquiry. Ms McRae made it quite clear that we had already asked the Health Complaints Commissioner to investigate this issue, and very appropriately, too.
MR MOORE: My question is to Mrs Carnell as the Chief Minister, and it has to do with the inquiries into the Royal Canberra Hospital demolition. Given that your first appointment of Mr Tanzer to the implosion inquiry had to be cancelled, and given that the second inquiry has had to be put into recess, would you please advise the Assembly what responsibility you have for these two failures? In doing so, can you explain why you did not follow the example of Bob Carr in New South Wales in relation to Thredbo when he said, "No, we do not need an inquiry of that kind because we have a coroner's inquiry and a coroner's inquiry has the same power as an inquiry under either an Inquiries Act or the Royal Commissions Act."? I believe the same would apply here.
MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Moore. I have to say that the end bit of that question is actually very sensible. The reason we decided to go down the path of a separate inquiry, Mr Speaker, was that we believed, as all members of the Assembly as well appeared to believe - a large percentage of them went on various parts of the media suggesting that there needed to be an immediate inquiry - that there needed to be an inquiry into the actual tender process, into the paper trail involved. We all know that coroners' inquiries can take quite long periods of time. I still believe that if the first inquiry had been allowed to go ahead with a very narrow term of reference, looking at such things as the paper trail and the tender process, we would potentially have some answers on the table now and not have to wait the 12 to 18 months that a coroner's inquiry could take. I believe very strongly that the people of Canberra did want some answers quickly, particularly about the process that was under way. We spoke to the coroner with regard to our initial terms of reference - terms of reference that those in the Assembly chose not to support. That is obviously the role of the Assembly if they choose to do so. But they expanded those terms of reference and ended up in a situation, as I explained to them at the time, where we could easily end up with the terms of reference of the two inquiries overlapping. I believe that would not have been the case, and, by the way, so do others, if we had maintained the initial terms of reference.