Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 6 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 2728..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
I would also say that the Treasurer raised a fairly good point in asking Mr Smyth if he would stand down from the position if he were found to have misled this place. I would also make this point: there have been times when I have personally heard and seen Mr Smyth and others make less than dignified comments which they have been reluctant to withdraw. If we want to talk about dignity, in Yiddish we have the word "mensch". That means "good person"but it means much more than that.
I refer to the attitude displayed by the minister this evening when he got up, I believe after Ms Dundas had spoken. He spoke about how he can often come across as being aloof and arrogant. That is really laying oneself on the line. I believe Mr Corbell fulfils the requirements of being a mensch, but I cannot necessarily say the same about the people on the opposite side this evening.
Amendment agreed to.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (10.32): This motion is not about how, when, why or by whom the original mistake was made. It is not about a breach of the code. If you make a genuine mistake it is not a breach of the code. But when a breach of the code, where you have misled the house, is brought to your attention you are obliged to correct the record. If you do not, that is when you have breached the code. For the last three or four months I have asked the minister to correct the record on numerous occasions-on just about every sitting date from 11 March-in either questions on mental health, an MPI on mental health, or direct questions, and the minister has chosen not to do that.
A minister has an obligation to investigate and, if necessary, correct the record when it is drawn to his attention that he has misled the Assembly. A mistake can be okay when it is a genuine mistake. Not to correct the record is when you get into trouble. Not to correct the record at the first available opportunity when an error is brought to your attention is a breach of the ministerial code of conduct and the rules of the house. Not to correct the record on three, four, five, six, or seven possible opportunities is wilful political evasion, as well as a breach of the code.
We would not be here tonight if the minister had corrected the record when it was first brought to his attention. Much has been made of the fact that the minister has apologised and that that makes him a bigger man; but you are a much better man if you apologise when it is first brought to your attention, not when you have the threat of a motion of no confidence hanging over your head.
The question of timing was raised. Nobody was aware of this, apparently, but I have been asking about and talking of mental health since the launch of our policy. Questions were asked; MPIs were had; questions were placed on notice. If there is any doubt at all as to how seriously the opposition was treating it I would read, for the benefit of members, the last two paragraphs of my adjournment speech on 14 May. It says:
I warn the minister that if he indeed knows the answers to my questions and he knows that he has misled the Assembly in relation to these issues, then he failed last night to provide full disclosure to the Assembly. Once more I insist that the minister reveal the answers to the questions asked of him. I place him and the Chief Minister