Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 496..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
Subsection 1 (a) applies to the following types of conduct:
(a) conduct of a person (whether or not a public official) that adversely affects, or could adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial performance of official functions by a public official or government agency; or
(b) conduct of a public official that amounts to the exercise of any of his or her official functions dishonestly or with partiality; or
(c) conduct of a public official, a former public official or a government agency that amounts to a breach of public trust; or
(d) conduct of a public official, a former public official or a government agency that amounts to the misuse of information or material acquired in the course of the exercise of official functions (whether for the benefit of that person or agency or otherwise); or
(e) a conspiracy or attempt to engage in conduct referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d).
The section goes on to define a criminal offences as an offence against the law of the territory and what constitutes a disciplinary offence. The act relates further to homing in on anything done by a particular official in a particular agency.
That may not even be relevant in any particular way to this inquiry. Part of it may be. Hopefully, it will not be because there are some pretty serious things in there. But any protection that it gives to witnesses cannot cover the whole gamut of what we will be looking at here. Obviously, it is in the public interest for anyone with any information that might assist the inquiry to bring it forward so that, if there are any lessons that we need to learn as a result of the tragic events of January 2003, they can be learned and steps can then be taken hopefully to ensure that they do not happen again, certainly to ensure that whatever reasonable precautions should be taken are able to be taken as a result of lessons learned. You cannot do that unless you have a full and frank inquiry, unless witnesses feel that they can tell what they saw, what they experienced, without any fear or favour.
Mr Speaker, my bill is a short bill, necessarily so. It is, as it says, a bill for an act to protect people making statements to the inquiry which our Chief Minister announced on 10 February into the operational response to the bushfires, headed by Ron McLeod. Basically, the bill gives the title and indicates the normal commencement time. The guts of the bill is in clauses 4 and 5.
Clause 4 (1) relates to any person who makes any statement to the inquiry or gives a document or any information. That statement can be oral or in writing. The document can be oral or in writing. In fact, there might be means other than oral or in writing to help an inquiry. All sorts of things are possible with computers. Basically, any person who gives anything by way of assistance or contributes to the inquiry would have the same protection as a witness in proceedings in the Supreme Court of the ACT. That is, effectively, protection against any defamation actions or any other actions that might arise there.