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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2497..


MS DUNDAS (continuing):

Parliamentary privilege has a long and chequered history. It arose some three centuries ago, when article 9 of England's Bill of Rights provided that freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in a parliament ought not be impeached or questioned in any court, or place out of the parliament.

Over the years, questions have arisen, in both the courts and the parliaments, about the extent of the proceedings of parliaments. This goes to the heart of the conflicting legal advice which surrounded the Gallop report.

In the late 1980s, a federal joint select committee on parliamentary privilege saw that problems arose through this uncertainty. It proposed a definition which was enacted as section 16 (2) (d) of the federal Parliamentary Privileges Act of 1987. That gives parliamentary privilege to "the formulation, making or publication of a document, including a report, by or pursuant to an order of a house or a committee and the documents so formulated, made or published".

It has been recognised that, if this broad definition could mean that all information used in the writing of a report could receive parliamentary privilege, then this could be used to protect an endless number of documents and files. Clearly, that was not the intention of the definition.

Having said that, there has never been any doubt that documents tabled before a house become proceedings in parliament, whatever their source and whatever their content. The ACT Inquiries Act, written after the enactment of the federal Parliamentary Privileges Act, makes allowances for the Chief Minister to release information at any time and then, later, assume parliamentary privilege.

This may have been to allow the Chief Minister to release information early, as Mr Humphries suggests, or it may have been to give the executive unnecessary discretionary powers to release information quietly, without the spotlight of this Assembly.

Mr Speaker, the bill I table today, if accepted by the Assembly, will turn this problem around. It will ensure that parliamentary privilege is not extended to the leaking of reports, media conferences and the like. It will further ensure that Assembly members are the first to scrutinise reports, rather than disgruntled public servants or lawyers in the Supreme Court.

Debate (on motion by Mr Quinlan ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Insurance Compensation Framework Bill 2002

Mr Smyth presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR SMYTH (10.39): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.


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