Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 8 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 2393..
DR FOSKEY: I move:
That the recommendation be agreed to.
I take this opportunity to present a point of view on this matter. People will remember that some time ago a number of volunteer firemen gathered outside in the square. During the debate that day, Mr Corbell made some remarks which Mr Barling felt referred to himself and the volunteer firefighters. He sought leave to have a right of reply. This request came to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure and it was discussed at some length in two meetings. The committee was divided about the action that should be taken in relation to Mr Barling's right to have a right of reply. As a result, the report before us today reflects the fact that the decision was in the negative.
I put on the record that I was one of the people who felt that Mr Barling should have a right of reply because, even though it may not have been considered by everybody that his claim was just, it was very clear that Mr Barling was sincere in his request and that he did believe that the remarks made did affect him. Consequently, I felt that his statement should be tabled in the Assembly. Therefore, I am a little disappointed in the committee's response. Nonetheless, it is in front of members today.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.04): As members will read in the report that has just been tabled, the committee could not reach a resolution, as is set out in paragraph 4; therefore it was negated and the committee in paragraph 5 recommended that no further action be taken by the Assembly in relation to the submission.
This is a very important issue. We have a large body of volunteers who form the brigades of our rural fire service. They are represented by a body called the volunteer brigades association. As members will remember, on 15 March this year the brigades turned up in their vehicles at the front of the Assembly and left the vehicles and their keys as a vote of no confidence in the minister for emergency services, Mr Corbell, and as a vote of no confidence in the commissioner of the emergency services agency.
Members may recall that there was a big debate that day during which we attempted to censure the minister for his behaviour, and that was defeated. But in the course of the debate certain things were said about the volunteer brigades association, and that prompted the brigades to write to the Speaker asking for a right of reply. I would like to quote from that letter. It is addressed to the Speaker and is headed "Citizens' right of reply". The committee wrote back seeking more information; this is the information that was provided by the volunteer brigades association. I quote:
There are 3 "injured parties"that have been adversely affected in reputation by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Simon Corbell. Firstly the Rural Fire Service volunteers of the ACT, secondly the ACT Volunteer Brigades Association and me, personally, as the President of the VBA.
In a future interpretation of the Hansard of 15th March, 2007 any reasonable person would assume from Mr Corbell's reply to Mr Mulcahy from the following transcript—