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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 2446..

Legislative Assembly—pairs

MR SMYTH: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, in the Assembly on 16 August—that is, Wednesday of last week—during a debate on the order of Assembly business, in relation to the matter of pairs for members of Assembly committees, you said:

Mr Speaker, there was absolutely no justification or basis for refusing Ms MacDonald a pair ...

Chief Minister, did Ms MacDonald ask for a pair prior to her leaving Canberra to travel to Queensland? Why, as Chief Minister, did you become involved in this process?

MR STANHOPE: To the extent that I became involved in this issue, I became involved because of what I regarded as the unprecedented and unprincipled action of Mr Smyth, Mr Pratt and, I assume, Dr Foskey in refusing to allow a member of the Labor Party on parliamentary business in New Zealand a pair to obviate the need for her, at her own expense, to return to Australia to participate in a deliberative committee hearing. I think it is unprecedented, I think it is unprincipled, I think it is a retreat to the sort of petty personal politics that really does damage the reputation of this Assembly and actually is part of the reason that we are not in particularly good odour with this community.

That is why I became involved. I sought initially to prevent a member of the government, one of my colleagues, from the expedient of having to spend $1,000 of her own money simply to return to Australia from New Zealand, where she was representing this parliament on parliamentary business; whereas, through the simple expedient of allowing a pair, she could have been spared that very significant personal expense. If members of the opposition somehow feel chuffed, feel it is a matter of some pride, that they have cost one of their colleagues $1,000 because they thought that they could score some petty political point or advantage by refusing her a pair, I find that rather distressing. That is why I involved myself. I think it is petty, I think it is unprincipled, I think it is unprecedented that you would, for the purpose of making a petty political point, force one of your colleagues in the Assembly—there are only 17 of us—

Mr Pratt: Suddenly we are all brothers and sisters.

MR STANHOPE: We are colleagues. We expect a certain level of humanity and courtesy which we would hope we could extend to each other. That is all that was being sought, that you would act with a certain dignity, a certain courtesy, that you would not impose in that way on one of your colleagues. Just imagine any other workplace. This is a workplace. There are 17 of us. We are colleagues. We can act with a certain level of dignity and a certain level of courtesy towards each other. But you could not bring yourself to do that in a situation where to do otherwise has achieved the result which has been achieved, that Ms MacDonald is $1,000 out of pocket because of your determination to somehow score a glancing political blow.

It is interesting, as the Liberals listen almost with bated anticipation to Chief Minister's Talkback, that Mr Smyth could not, of course, resist first, I think, an SMS, then a fax and then a phone call, hanging off every word in angst and agitation. Of course, Alex Sloan

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