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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (12 November) . . Page.. 3427..


University of Canberra-fraud allegations

MS TUCKER: My question is for the Attorney-General, and it is in regard to the University of Canberra. Mr Stanhope, you will be aware of allegations of fraud or mismanagement in the operation of the University of Canberra Union over the past few years, of concerns regarding reprisals directed at the student and staff whistleblowers and of concerns regarding governance and due process in the university and its union.

You will recall that earlier this year I raised the question of the application of the Public Interest Disclosure Act to the university. It is the government's view that the act does apply; whereas it has been the view of the university that it does not.

I also understand that the university agreed to treat disclosures as if the PID Act applied but later took the position that it would only apply after May 15 this year. It seems to me, however, that the issues in question go back two or three years at least.

Attorney-General, what action have you taken or will you take to ensure that the PID Act will apply to the University of Canberra, and its union, from the date of its transfer to the jurisdiction of the ACT? What action will you take to ensure that the allegations are comprehensively pursued and either resolved or put to rest in an open and transparent manner?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms Tucker, and thank you for the advance notice, through the paper, that a question might be asked on this. I remember the issue as raised by you earlier in the year, and you will recall that in response I sought advice from the ACT Government Solicitor. I asked for that advice in March, and I tabled it on 16 May. You will recall that it was the view of the ACT Government Solicitor that public interest disclosure provisions did, indeed, apply to the University of Canberra.

As you say, the University of Canberra had disputed that interpretation. I might say that, at the time the advice was made available, it was also provided to both the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General, pursuant to that legislation, because they are designated proper authorities under the act for the purpose of investigating disclosures.

The university indicated at that initial stage that it did not accept that interpretation. There were, however, some discussions then between the university and the Chief Minister's Department, as a result of which the University of Canberra conceded that it would act in accordance with the requirements and procedures of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

The university conveyed that in a letter to the Chief Minister's Department on, I believe, 21 June 2002, as a result of which both the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman were advised that that was the university's position, and both commenced inquiries into matters that had been raised under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

To the surprise of the Chief Minister's Department, the Ombudsman's office advised the Chief Minister's Department on 19 September that it felt that there was still some question about whether or not the act applied. That took the department by surprise, given the previous expression of intent by the university that it would act in accordance


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