Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 February 2010) . . Page.. 554 ..
MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth!
MR SMYTH: But I go back to the point: again, Mr Corbell runs interference, and you know it is stinging when Mr Corbell starts jumping up with his strings of points of order and his counterclaims. But the point is this: this is the standard set by the government; this is the approach of the government when they are under pressure—they start to obfuscate, they start to muddy, so that when the decision of the privileges committee, whatever that might be, comes down, they can say that it was a flawed process from the start, that it was a kangaroo court.
We saw it the last time there was a privilege matter in this place. Mr Corbell attacked the process and then deigned to sit on the committee that was going to make the inquiry. I do not know how people view that. The word “hypocrisy” does spring to mind, but it is standard operating procedure for this government to act in this way. They do not like a decision of the Assembly, and let us face it, they do not like the decision of the Assembly yesterday. Instead of going to the matter and correcting the record and having ministers come forward and make formal apologies—which is the normal practice if you want to avoid this—instead, they attack the messenger. That also is standard operating procedure for this government—when you have nothing of substance, you go after the people involved, and they do it all the time.
Privilege is a very serious matter. If we cannot believe people that have appeared before Assembly committees and trust that what they say is accurate then everything that we are told is under question and everything that comes as a consequence of that is undermined by what has occurred. There are serious concerns about this issue, and it is a very serious matter and the opposition take it very seriously indeed. But if the government want to, as Mr Stanhope said, look to equity and justice and the integrity of the process then they need to look at their own appointment. If they feel so strongly about this, they should immediately withdraw Mr Barr—a minister; a minister who called in the dam; a minister who, in the past, has not come back before the estimates committee. To give Ms Gallagher her due, at least she had the courage to come to a recall day for last year’s estimates committee. She came back and explained her actions. But we have got Mr Barr who refuses to do that.
If you follow the logic of Mr Hargreaves as to why he wanted to volunteer but could not volunteer—that is, he had knowledge and he had been in cabinet and he had sat on the committee—then exactly the same logic applies to Mr Barr. Mr Barr should be removed from the committee. Mr Barr, in fact, has more knowledge about this than anybody else who would potentially sit on the committee. In that regard, if Mr Stanhope’s statements about equity and justice and about the integrity of the process are to be even vaguely believed then perhaps he should stand up and withdraw Mr Barr at this time. That would be the appropriate thing to do.
The House of Representatives Practice and the companion to the standing orders make it clear—that is, the practice has been long held that ministers should not sit on committees that investigate information that ministers have seen or know of or have access to through their role as ministers in the cabinet. This is blurring the separation of powers to such a degree—it is now unfortunately an established practice courtesy