Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3907..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
like to address the issues. I will try and be as precise as possible, because I feel that my dissenting comments are a bit circumlocutory because of the constraints of the standing orders. So I will try and put the facts and then comment on them.
On 5 August, in this place, Mr Hargreaves asked a question without notice of the Minister for Industrial Relations. It was what in the trade is called a "dorothy dixer". We are coming up to an election; the government was hurting over a couple of issues and it was decided to ask a question that would be embarrassing to a member of the opposition. That is politics. I think the member concerned-Mrs Burke-understands that and she is smart enough and tough enough to take these things on her own shoulders. Comments were made-most of which were made only indirectly about Mrs Burke-which related to her husband.
We need to be frank. We are talking about the husband of a member here. Some of the comments made-and people may like to refresh their memories by going back to Hansard-were pretty much "below the belt". It was ironic that, just before the question was asked, the Chief Minister sat down, saying, "I will not get into the gutter"and yet the next thing was that we had Mr Hargreaves and the minister right down in the gutter saying things like-and I think this is the choice bit, "Some people who speak Greek have informed me that 'Endoxos'-the name of Mr Burke's former company-"translates roughly as 'glorious and honourable'."I noticed at the time that Mrs Cross said, "Er."I wonder if she was questioning that in her mind with her knowledge of Greek. She might like to enlighten us. "As we can see, nothing could be further from the truth. Those who are responsible, directors and former directors, should hang their heads in shame at these actions."
What the Minister for Industrial Relations was saying was that the former directors, or directors, of this company were both inglorious and dishonourable. As a result of comments like this and other comments, Mr Burke wrote to the Speaker making application for the exercise of a citizen's right of reply. As both Mr Hargreaves and I have said, the standing orders are very constrained and are very constraining about what we do.
Let us work this out. The Speaker could decide that this was frivolous and not take it to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure; he did not decide it was frivolous. The Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure could decide it was frivolous and not proceed any further; it did not. Without going into what Mr Burke said in his letter, Mr Burke provided at least enough documentary evidence to make us think he had a case that could be put forward.
There were some things Mr Burke did not say in his letter but perhaps should have said. One of those things was that the comments made by the minister about him were then retailed in the electronic media. We often say things in here and nobody gives a damn because nobody ever hears them. But, if they are retailed in the media we have aided and abetted in telling the community that an individual is dishonourable and inglorious, among other things. Mr Burke contends that some of the things said were untrue.
Mr Hargreaves: Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. May I seek your guidance? I am really hoping to assist Mrs Dunne here. The last thing she said was that Mr Burke contended something. She indicates that it may probably have been within evidence.