Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2435..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
a difficult period for the government, and it is interesting that it is a matter of third time lucky. I am quite surprised at what is clearly a breakdown in communication where members accused of something by other members do not have it brought to their attention before it is aired here in the house.
Mr Speaker, you very courteously sent to me a complaint raised by the Minister for Health—a spurious complaint in the end—which I answered, and you found that there was no case to answer. I am saddened to hear that Mr Stefaniak did not have the same courtesy extended to him because I think a number of things have occurred here. The committee, over a number of hearings, had asked for several documents—
MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, that is a reflection on a decision which I took in accordance with the standing orders, and I would ask you to withdraw that reflection.
MR SMYTH: I withdraw any reflection, Mr Speaker. I am concerned that, in effect, what has happened is that over a period of time the committee have asked for several documents that they have not received, for a very long period, from a minister who thumbs his nose at and snubs authority on many occasions. The chairman has simply written to remind the minister that these documents had been requested by the committee.
The government has the numbers, so this motion will go through, but it will be interesting to see if the government has the integrity to look at the greater issue, which is how the minister purports to have come by this internal discussion of the committee, who delivered that information to the minister, who breached the privilege of the committee and who flouted the committee rules. I have circulated an amendment in the Assembly which I now move:
Insert new paragraph (2(aa)):
"(2(aa)) how Mr Corbell became aware of the fact that the Committee had not authorised the letter;".
I do apologise; there is a drafting error at the top and it says "estimates"when it should actually read "privilege", so I ask members to take that into account. The amendment asks the committee to also inquire into how Mr Corbell became aware of the fact that the committee had not authorised the letter. When Mr Corbell appears before the committee to answer this question, it will be interesting to see if he has the same zeal for this committee then and whether or not the committee will get the answers to questions that they may well ask.
Mr Speaker, I refer to page 640 of the House of Representatives Practice. Under "Procedural authority"—and this is a procedural matter, no doubt—it says:
... formal authority over select and standing committee procedures therefore lies with the chair ...
This is simply a procedural matter and the government, third time lucky, are trying to issue a little bit of payback, I suspect, to the opposition because they are very tender and tetchy over (1) their behaviour and (2) the poor media they have been getting with respect to their arrogant approach to things like estimates and committee inquiries into the bushfire inquiry—a very important inquiry.