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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 2 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 288..


Members' staff—use of email

MRS BURKE: My question is to the minister for education, Mr Barr. Minister, a member of your staff resigned last week for sending to some MLAs an email purporting to be from the Australian Christian Lobby. I thank you for your letter of explanation which was received by my office today. Minister, when did you first become aware of the existence of the email? When did your senior staff become aware of its existence? Who else in your office was aware of this email?

MR BARR: I received advice that an investigation was under way in relation to the email on Monday, 26 February. Following confirmation that a staff member in my office had entered an email address that misrepresented the content of the email, such that it could be construed as being sent from the Australian Christian Lobby, that confirmation being received on Thursday, 1 March, I immediately asked for the resignation of the staff member. That resignation was received and processed.

I have apologised to the Australian Christian Lobby and to all members of the Assembly who received the email. I understand that it was also cc-ed to the federal Attorney-General. I have written to apologise to Mr Ruddock as well. I sincerely regret the incident.

Certainly, my view on the issue is well known. I have spoken in this place on a number of occasions in relation to my view on the civil partnerships, civil unions, legislation. My very strong conviction is that, in making those statements, you put your name to them. So the error and the misdemeanour that the staff member made was to send this email and potentially and obviously to misrepresent the views of the Australian Christian Lobby.

I need to state very clearly that it was an isolated incident, one email from one member of my staff. It was something that that staff member did of their own volition. As I say, I do not condone that act. I find it very disturbing. I was very distressed when I became aware of the extent of the misrepresentation and sought to act immediately.

MRS BURKE: I have a supplementary question. Minister, thank you for that answer but I do not think that you really answered the major part of my question. Who else in your office was aware of the email? To add to that, what measures have you put in place to ensure that a similar event will not happen again?

MR BARR: Other members of staff in my office became aware of the email on the 26th when I received a letter from the Chief Minister advising me that Mr Mulcahy had written to the Speaker, that the Speaker had written to the Clerk and that the Clerk had referred the matter to the Chief Minister's Department. The Chief Minister then advised me in writing that the investigation had determined that it was a staff member in my office. My other staff became aware of the matter at that time.

As to the second part of the question, I have indeed counselled all of my staff members in relation to the appropriate use of emails. There is a series of guidelines that the Assembly has on the acceptable use of information technology. I would


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