Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1472..
MR WOOD (continuing):
that the chair is not engaging in an unbiased way towards the inquiry entrusted to her chairmanship.
It is clear when committees are established that the view that objectivity should prevail is paramount. It is clear that the words indicate intent to influence the result of an inquiry. The intent by the chair of the committee is a serious breach of the protocols of the parliament and has contributed to the finding of contempt by the privileges committee.
I will now turn to the timing of the flyer. The flyer was distributed after submissions were called by the committee and before the submissions received by the secretariat had been distributed to members of the committee.
As to impact on the inquiry: the inquiry was in jeopardy of being aborted. The committee considered that the inquiry had been compromised and moved to address the perception of lack of bias. The chair's offer to stand down from that inquiry was accepted by the committee, as was the apology for the jeopardy in which the inquiry had been placed. There were acknowledgements that the process had not been corrected.
The chair said to the committee, "If the committee feels that the issue is serious, and by looking at the numbers, it would seem that it is ..."This is what was said. That was taken by some members of the committee to be a qualification of the apology. Indeed, the chair should have acknowledged herself that the issue was serious. It was a demonstration that the chair did not understand, or sought to avoid acknowledging, the seriousness of the issue in terms of either the fate of the inquiry or the breach in Assembly protocol. The committee felt a need to write to traders and issue a press release to allay fears of a predetermined position.
As to the blurring of roles: we have the chair of the Standing Committee on Planning and the Environment, a member of the Standing Committee on Planning and Environment, the opposition spokesperson on planning, and the member for Ginninderra. All those roles were blurred but, as chair of the committee, Mrs Dunne had the absolute responsibility to act appropriately and separate other considerations such as being the local member for Ginninderra and, in particular, the opposition spokesperson on planning.
Let me talk about the attitude to the privileges inquiry. It seems that the chair displayed a contempt for even the privileges committee by issuing a press statement before the privileges committee had concluded, suggesting in that press statement that she had been vindicated. This was before the inquiry had concluded and was based on something entirely different. She was referring to the report of the committee into the Aldi issue. That report dealt with quite separate issues. Clearly, she did not accept and acknowledge the seriousness of her actions.
Was there intent to interfere with the work of the committee? Well, look at page 15, paragraph 5.1, of the report of the privileges committee. There certainly was an attempt, with this bull-in-a-china-shop approach to the whole issue, to interfere with the work of the committee.
There was an apology to the house. The chair apologised on 30 March but the words of this apology related to her claimed misunderstanding of her roles. She did not indicate