Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (15 August) . . Page.. 2105..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
Our system of government in the ACT and in every jurisdiction in Australia rests on an adherence to the Westminster system of government. Under that Westminster system cabinet ministers have a serious responsibility that comes with holding that important role. Cabinet is the body charged with making key decisions on public policy for the government of the day. An essential condition of our system of government is that cabinet ministers must show solidarity with their colleagues by publicly supporting cabinet's position on any matter.
Fundamental to our system of government-and the ACT is no exception-is the idea that you can argue whatever position you like in cabinet on a policy issue, but once agreement has been reached in cabinet you must support the decision reached by your cabinet colleagues. Those decisions are binding.
That notion of cabinet solidarity is a key tenet of our political system. I do not think anyone here-I hope they would not-would say that is not the case. Failure of a cabinet minister to adhere to a cabinet decision publicly requires resignation or dismissal. That is what the Westminster system requires. There is no grey area about this. Ministers Gallagher and Corbell are in breach of that requirement and should no longer hold office.
Mr Corbell: Do you remember Michael Moore?
MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Stefaniak has the call.
MR STEFANIAK: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Failing that they should have been dismissed, and if they were not dismissed they should have resigned. I will outline the sequence of events that led to the opposition moving this want of confidence motion. At some stage up to 6 June this year cabinet settled on the ACT budget. A number of members do not like what came out in the budget, but cabinet settled on it. That included a number of issues for example, school closures and superannuation.
It is clear that on Saturday, 29 July 2006 during the ALP conference held at the Lakeside hotel, Minister Gallagher and Minister Corbell did not support their government's policy with respect to school closures, seven weeks or so after the budget was introduced. These two recalcitrant ministers also voted at the conference against the policy of their government and cabinet to amend superannuation entitlements for public servants-two key budget decisions endorsed by cabinet. The explanation offered by these two ministers reveals just who calls the shots in the ALP.
Mr Corbell explained to the media that he voted in that way because his faction required him to do so, and Ms Gallagher offered a similar explanation. An interesting aspect is that they are both former education ministers. In other words, they said to the people of the ACT, "We voted this way because we had to."They even argued that they did not agree with the way they voted at the conference but they said to the community, "It is okay. That is what you do in the Labor Party and at a Labor Party conference."
When we look at our history we find that that was not always the case. Going back to the 1960s one of my first recollections of politics and political procedures was a series of British Labour defence ministers resigning over British government defence policy at that time, and they seemed to have a good point.