Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4164..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
confusion that currently exists around standing orders 241 and 242. The bulk of the report looks at standing orders 241 and 242 and how they could be greater clarified to put some more stability into what we mean by privilege and contempt and when such things would occur. The main recommendation was that, based on what this Privileges Committee has reported and the previous Privileges Committee's definition of "privilege", the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure do a further investigation of how we can rewrite standing orders 241, 242 and 243.
In terms of whether information had been leaked, it was impossible for the committee to determine whether there had been a leak in each case and, if there had been a leak, to attribute the origin of the leak. In considering this matter the committee endeavoured to apply the test of whether there had been a substantial interference with the work of the two committees by the premature release of their recommendations. We came up with the answer that possibly not. Hence, there was not enough evidence to conclude that there was a breach of privilege or contempt. We concluded that, while there seemed to be prior knowledge of the recommendations, it was impossible to attribute this knowledge to any particular member of this Assembly or anybody else working in the Assembly.
I would like to thank members of the Assembly for taking the time to participate in this inquiry and providing information particularly in relation to our first resolution, but the main issue that I think needs to be addressed is how our standing orders currently work in relation to privilege. I hope that the Administration and Procedure Committee will consider this report in depth and move to address the concerns that we have raised.
The second major issue was Minister Corbell's response to the Estimates Committee and his refusal to provide information at the time it was asked for. Again, we looked at this issue in depth and considered Hansard as to Minister Corbell's evidence to the Estimates Committee and his statement in the chamber as well as his further statements to the committee in hearings and, as a consequence, found that Minister Corbell had indeed acted in contempt of the Assembly but, considering the nature of the contempt and the Estimate Committee's actions after the situation took place, the majority of the committee recommended that no further action be taken. The minister has apologised to the committee and to this Assembly in statements previously and I agree that there is no need for further action to be taken at this point in time. However, one member of the committee has dissented from that recommendation.
In relation to the budget estimates 2003 document that was circulated under ACT Health letterhead, it was made quite clear to the committee, I believe, that this was possibly due to a lack of understanding of how the Assembly works or, if that understanding was there, a disregard for it. The circulation of the document was found to be possibly not in the best interests of the people who circulated it and not in the best interests of the Assembly. Everybody agreed that it was a flippant document. The author and the officer who circulated the document have since apologised on public record, through the Privileges Committee, for the document.
I was quite pleased to see the action taken by Dr Sherbon, as chief executive, not only in relation to those two officers but also in relation to the members of the executive of the department who received the document for not realising that it needed to be called in. We have recommended that the training brought about in ACT Health as a result of this incident be taken up more broadly across the public sector, through the Assembly, to