Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 February 2010) . . Page.. 435 ..
Mr Sullivan has subsequently made public comment on two radio programs about why he used those turns of phrase, which essentially boiled down to “Actew Corporation did not think it was appropriate for the committee to have that information”. I contend to you, Mr Speaker, and to all members here, that it is not the place of a senior official, even the head of a territory-owned corporation, to make that decision. That is a decision that should be made by a committee.
Mr Sullivan had a number of courses open to him to comply with the standing orders and to comply with the privilege statement that he had acknowledged. He failed to do that. He could have said, as I suggested in the hearings: “I am not at liberty to tell you that at the moment. I can get back to you.” The estimates committee could have considered what they wanted to do with that information. Their situation could have been that they could have taken Mr Sullivan’s word and asked him to get back to inform the Assembly at an appropriate time or they could have decided to take evidence in camera. Mr Sullivan could have revealed why they were thinking that they did not want the TOC revealed. But they could have informed the Assembly committee. That is the appropriate mechanism available.
We have had situations in the past where Mr Corbell, as a minister, oversaw a department where they put together a cheat sheet about how to avoid answering questions in estimates. That was the subject of a privileges inquiry that determined that both the officials who had drafted the document and the minister were guilty of contempt of the Assembly.
There are clear precedents and clear experience where officials have given wrong information to committees and those committees have been appropriately apprised of the information. In past years officials have been forced to write to estimates committees and correct the record. On one occasion, officials were recalled. As recently as the day before this event occurred last week, the Electoral Commissioner gave evidence to a committee that I was chairing. He gave evidence in a public hearing and he used a figure which was $800,000. He went back and discovered that he had made a mistake, and that very day he wrote to me and to the secretary of the committee to correct the record. That is what officials are supposed to do.
The committee system cannot operate if we cannot be assured and confident that the people who come before us are speaking the truth. Mr Sullivan, in relation to this matter, has admitted himself that he did not deal truthfully with the estimates committee back in May last year. That is a matter, without even the slightest—
Mr Stanhope: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr Seselja: Can we stop the clock, Mr Speaker?
MR SPEAKER: Yes.
Mr Stanhope: Mr Speaker, I have not been involved in the detail of these discussions—otherwise or not. Mr Sullivan has written to you today, and provided a copy of that letter to others, in which he quite explicitly—