Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2004) . . Page.. 2709 ..
at the prison. My comments were, and remain, accurate. I relied on a package of material issued by the Liberal Party on their mental health policy, supplied to the Canberra Times and subsequently passed on to me for my comment, which included a summary of quotes from Mr Smyth: “There are facilities. The key is the caseload. We would establish a time-out facility and make sure there is a forensic unit as part of the hospital.” For the information of members, I now table a copy of those documents. I did attribute this quote to Hansard and that is clearly not correct. However, it was supplied with material I received from the Canberra Times on Mr Smyth’s policy announcement. I have a valid claim for making that statement. I did not, as Mr Smyth asserts, simply make it up.
Mr Smyth’s third claim in this weak no confidence motion is that expenditure per capita figures on mental health were deliberately misrepresented by me when my question time brief said otherwise. This claim is inaccurate and unreasonable. While my question time brief showed that, for the last full year of the Liberal government, expenditure was $75 per person and that, for the 2001-02 financial year, the current expenditure had increased to $83.7 per person, I also continued to be advised by my department that $67 per person was an accurate figure. This occurred at least twice after the February question on notice brief Mr Smyth referred to. In the speech prepared for me by the Department of Health for the matter of public importance on the state of mental health services in the ACT on 11 March, the department supplied the $67 figure. In another question time brief from forensic mental health facilities, dated 25 March, the $67 per head figure was also quoted. For the information of members, I provide the relevant documents on those two instances as well.
It is worth making the point that the $67 per person figure is based on the most recent national mental health report, and is still the only figure available to compare mental health expenditure in the ACT with that of other jurisdictions. My assertion of an almost doubling of expenditure was based on a rough calculation that an increase from around $60 to around $120 was indeed a doubling. I am sure members would accept that this is a reasonable debating point.
It is true that an error was made in relation to the level of mental health expenditure per capita. And when this error was drawn to my attention, I corrected it. I would like to draw to members’ attention the requirement of the code of conduct for ministers in this regard. It states:
Ministers should take reasonable steps to ensure the factual content of statements they make in the Assembly are soundly based and that they correct any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.
I table a copy of the ministerial code of conduct, for the information of members, so that they are familiar with what it requires. I know I have fulfilled the requirements of the code. The inaccuracy of my statements was brought to my attention in a brief from the Chief Executive of Health, received by my office on 3 May this year. I have a copy of that brief for the information of members also.
Given the subsequent notice of no confidence in the Chief Minister, I advised the Assembly and corrected the record on 13 May. I advised the Assembly of the error in the figures and corrected the record to ensure that there was no further misunderstanding. It is my obligation under the code of conduct to correct the record when an error is drawn