Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2024..
I believe your statements in that regard are wrong, Mr Corbell, and I wanted to place that on the record. In fact, you should withdraw the statements. I accept that you probably did not know the history of that, but I think it would be appropriate if you did withdraw them.
Statement by Speaker
MR SPEAKER: Members, on 17 June, Mr Wood gave written notice of a possible breach of privilege concerning the premature and unauthorised release of information on ABC radio. The radio broadcast referred to the recommendations of the draft reports of two committees which had not, at that stage, been presented to the Legislative Assembly.
Under the provisions of standing order 71, I must determine whether or not the matter merits precedence over other business. If, in my opinion, the matter does merit precedence, I must inform the Assembly of the decision and the member who raised the matter may move a motion without notice forthwith to refer the matter to a select committee. Assembly standing order 241 provides:
The evidence taken by any committee and documents presented to and proceedings and reports of the committee shall be strictly confidential and shall not be published or divulged by any member of the committee or by any other person, until the report of the committee has been presented to the Assembly: Provided always that the publication or divulging of any evidence, documents, proceedings or report confidentially to any person or persons by the committee or by any member of the committee for the execution of any clerical work or printing, or to the Speaker, a Member, or, if it be necessary, in the course of their duties, to the Clerk or other officers of the Assembly, shall not be deemed to be a breach of this standing order
Under section 24 of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act the Assembly and its members and committees have the same powers, including privileges and immunities, as those for the time being held by the House of Representatives and its members and committees. The publication of draft reports of committees before their presentation to the Legislative Assembly and House of Representatives has been pursued as a matter of contempt.
As Speaker, 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. Having considered the transcripts of the radio broadcasts and the complaint, I am prepared to allow precedence to a motion to refer the matter to a select committee.
I should at the same time mention that, in the event that a motion to establish a committee is moved, members may wish to take into account that the committee will be examining the conduct of members on select committees of the Assembly, and they may wish to consider whether or not the members of those select committees can appropriately sit on a committee examining an issue of privilege. This may present an issue for members to wrestle with.