Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 13 October 2022) . . Page.. 3013 ..
… the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament.
This privilege applies not only to members of parliament, it also applies to others taking part in proceedings in parliament, such as those who make submissions to or give evidence before committees. Not all words spoken or acts done by members of the Legislative Assembly are considered proceedings in parliament. Instead, it is only the words spoken or the acts done for the purposes of transacting the business of the Assembly that constitute proceedings, thereby receiving the protection of privilege.
The privilege of freedom of speech enables members to raise in the Assembly matters they would not otherwise be able to bring forward without fear of legal consequences. The privilege is a great one that carries with it a corresponding obligation that it be used responsibly. This bill seeks to clarify the Integrity Commission’s information-gathering powers in relation to the Legislative Assembly to ensure that privilege is not breached.
The bill would not impede the commission from investigating matters related to MLAs or their staff and the commission will not be prevented from accessing information not protected by parliamentary privilege. Information sharing arrangements between the ACT public service and the Legislative Assembly could have potentially resulted in breaches of parliamentary privilege where, in the course of their duties, a delegate of the head of service divulged information to the Integrity Commission relating to the Assembly and its members, pursuant to section 89 of the Integrity Commission Act. This could result in public servants or others who are subject to the commission’s information-gathering powers, being in contempt of the commission for refusing to provide privileged information, or in contempt of the Assembly for doing so. The provisions contained in this bill seek to address these potential scenarios by clearly defining Assembly information and establishing arrangements for handling that information in relation to the exercise of the powers and functions of the commission.
I note concerns raised by the Standing Committee on Justice and Safety in their legislative scrutiny role that:
… the Bill may require individuals to deal with Assembly information in a particular way in circumstances where they are not aware it is Assembly information.
The Canberra Liberals are satisfied that the proposed amendments, which narrow the ambit of what is considered Assembly information, address the unintended consequences as raised by the JACS committee scrutiny report. Finally, I thank the Speaker for the collaborative way in which she approached the introduction of this legislation, having consulted with me on behalf of the opposition, in addition to the Chief Minister, the leader of the Greens, the JACS committee, the ACT Integrity Commissioner and the Inspector of the Integrity Commission.
MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (10.09): I rise to state that the Greens will be supporting this bill for the reasons that have already been outlined by the Chief Minister and the