Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 6 Hansard (17 June) . . Page.. 1867..
MR SPEAKER (continuing):
matter does merit precedence, I must inform the member who raised the matter in the Assembly of the decision, and the member who raised the matter may move a motion without notice and forthwith to refer the matter to a select committee appointed by the Assembly for that purpose. If, in my opinion, the matter does not merit precedence, I must inform the member in writing and may also inform the Assembly of the decision.
I am not required to judge whether there has been a breach of privilege or a contempt of the Assembly; I can only judge whether the matter merits precedence.
Upon receiving the letter from Ms Gallagher, I sought advice from the Clerk on the matter. That advice revealed that Mr Smyth could not have been using the uncorrected proof transcript as it had not been produced at the time Mr Smyth's office had sent the email to the constituent. I then wrote to Mr Smyth, seeking an explanation of how an excerpt of the proceedings appeared to have been made available to a constituent prior to the transcript being promulgated by the Hansard office staff.
Mr Smyth replied to me yesterday. I present a copy of Mr Smyth's, Ms Gallagher's and my letter for the information of members. Mr Smyth has indicated in his letter that staff of his office had transcribed the evidence given by Ms Gallagher from the live broadcast of the committee proceedings that is reticulated to members' offices in the building. Mr Smyth also provided examples where other members had included in their press releases extracts from the proceedings of the Assembly that did not appear to have come from the transcript of proceedings produced by Hansard.
Having considered the privileges issue raised by Ms Gallagher, I do not consider that the matter merits precedence over other business. However, the information that has come to light in relation to this privilege matter does cause some concern.
In 2001 the Assembly passed the Legislative Assembly (Broadcasting) Act 2001, which sets out the procedures for broadcasting of Assembly and committee proceedings. If members' staff are performing transcription services to members and that transcription is being broadcast to the public, it may breach the provisions of the broadcasting act and its associated guidelines which were adopted by this Assembly. It may also place members at some risk, as only the Hansard version of Assembly transcript attracts absolute privilege—not versions of the transcript produced by members' officers.
I have asked the Clerk to seek legal advice on the matter and I will report back to the Assembly once that advice has been received.
Motion by Mr Corbell agreed to:
That the Assembly do now adjourn.
The Assembly adjourned at 11.49 am until Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 10.30 am.