Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2829..
draft variation (continuing):
The publication of draft reports of committees before their presentation to the House of Representatives has been pursued as a matter of contempt and the publication of the draft report of the Select Committee on Estimates 1993-94 to a reporter from the Canberra Times was considered to be a contempt of the Assembly by the then Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure in its December 1993 report on the matter. The premature publication or disclosure of committee proceedings has also been pursued as a matter of contempt, but merely to indicate the timeframe a committee is working to does not necessarily, in itself, constitute the committee's deliberations.
As Speaker, I am not required to judge whether there has been a breach of privilege or a contempt of the Assembly. I can only judge whether a matter merits precedence. Having considered the articles and Mr Hird's complaints, I am prepared to allow precedence to a motion to refer the first matter, that concerning the committee's deliberations on its inquiry into draft variation No 138, to a select committee to deal with the matter. Alternatively, the Assembly may care to note the December 1993 recommendation of the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure and adopt the procedures for dealing with improper disclosure of committee evidence or proceedings utilised by the United Kingdom House of Commons and more recently by the House of Representatives.
To summarise those procedures, once an initial complaint has been raised, the committee in question must consider the matter-in particular, whether the matter has caused or is likely to cause substantial interference with its work, with the committee system or with the functioning of the house. The committee must inform the house of the results of its consideration and, if it finds that substantial interference has occurred, it must explain why it has reached that conclusion. The issue is then considered by the Speaker, who determines whether to allow precedence to a motion on the matter. However, as already indicated, I am prepared to allow precedence to a motion to refer the matter to a select committee in accordance with standing order 71. Should Mr Hird wish to move the required motion, I shall give him the call.
MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, as you rightly said, the matter was brought to my attention as chairman of that committee. With the approval of the other members of this place, I would like to take the matter back to the committee for further discussion and report back to you as Speaker.
MR KAINE: Mr Speaker, may I comment on this matter?
MR SPEAKER: You may.
MR KAINE: Mr Speaker, I suggest that, at the same time as the committee is examining this matter, it also examine how it was that within an hour and a half of the committee tabling its report in connection with this variation this morning the government submitted a comprehensive variation proposal. How did they know that the committee was going to bring down its report with a finding supporting that variation, such that within two hours at the very outside they were able to produce a thick volume on the matter? If the committee is going to look at the matter of privilege, it should look at how the government, through prescience or some other such mysterious methodology, was able to produce that variation so quickly.