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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (13 May) . . Page.. 1774..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

There is more, Mr Speaker. I would ask the Chief Minister to table during his speech his phone records and those of his chief of staff so that we can see for ourselves whether other phone calls were made. He might tell us where he was the night before, because that might help clear up some of the mystery. It might prompt his memory. The Chief Minister is keen to contextualise things. If you get a context, that might help you to remember.

Misleading the Assembly is a sacking offence. We are not here today to argue whether Mr Stanhope has misled the Assembly. He actually owns up to that. His guilt is not in dispute. I have just added another dozen or so occasions on which he has misled the Assembly-not just on phone calls, but on warnings, on declaring a state of emergency, and on what he was told and when he was told it. They are all misleading statements as well.

I say to all members that his amnesia excuse is not acceptable. His excuse is below the standard needed to maintain good government down through the years. If we accept it, it will spread across the ministry and the public service. It will become the standard technique of evasion and it will corrupt even the initially honourable. The Chief Minister's excuse is not believed by the public. If we accept it, we will be telling our community that politicians now have immunity from the hard questioning of parliament and can avoid it.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition's time has expired.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (11.14): Mr Speaker, let me make one thing clear at the outset: I take this motion seriously-most seriously. I take it seriously because of its nature. This is a motion that reflects directly on my personal integrity and my honesty, which I hold dear.

I also take this debate seriously because I respect the processes of this Assembly, and there can be no more serious motion than one of this nature. My political fate, and the fate of my government, is tied to the vote that will follow this debate. This point is a political one, but important: why would I risk the fate of my government by attempting to conceal some telephone calls, when the fact of those calls is on the record, subject to the scrutiny of the coroner and all those parties to the inquiry into the 2003 bushfires? Why would I do that? For that, at its essence, is what this debate is about.

In the motion before the Assembly, Mr Smyth suggests that I "repeatedly misled"the Assembly on the question of the advice I was given and the contact I had with officials on 17 and 18 January 2003. In public the opposition leader has argued that I was found out attempting to hide the fact of the telephone calls; that I had deliberately sought to conceal the fact that, between the cabinet briefing on Thursday, 16 January 2003 and the morning of Saturday, 18 January 2003, I had in fact been in contact with senior government officials in connection with the fires burning to Canberra's west; in other words, that I am a liar.

That is the basis of Mr Smyth's argument, although in publicly pushing it he has somewhat dramatised the matter. This is what Mr Smyth has said:


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