Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 31 July 2018) . . Page.. 2359 ..
PAC contact details from the newsletter was undesirable, the committee does not believe it was a deliberate act intended to mislead people that they were directly interacting with the PAC.
Furthermore, the committee found there was no evidence to suggest that the evidence received by the committee was skewed as a direct result of the newsletter; thus it did not cause substantial interference with the inquiry being conducted by the public accounts committee. Accordingly, in the absence of key elements generally accepted as being necessary for a finding of contempt to be sustained, the committee found that no contempt had been committed by Ms Lee or Miss Burch.
Turning to the conduct of Mr Coe, he was questioned because he ran the have your say website. One issue which received media attention was that there was a discovery that not all of the submissions were automatically sent to the public accounts committee from the website. This was, of course, an issue of some concern. The fact that this was not discovered until after the privileges inquiry had been established also raised concern in that there was no active process for reconciliation between what was submitted and what was actually forwarded to the public accounts committee.
This deficiency in the process could have given rise to the perception that submissions may have been selectively forwarded. However, the committee is satisfied that the scenario depicted in item (1)(f) of its terms of reference—that is, that not all submissions were passed to the PAC, thereby corrupting the inquiry—did not in fact occur.
Mr Coe was also asked about the potential for confusion to be created by the name of the have your say website, because the government’s main consultation portal is called your say. Clearly, the similarity of the names was an issue of concern. The committee does harbour concerns that, given the similarity of names, the website design and the lack of obvious party branding, the site may be mistaken for an official ACT government site. The committee felt that the fact that it was a political party’s site could have been made clearer.
Another concern that the committee had with the website was the lack of information provided to potential users. Users were not told that the PAC may not necessarily accept their submissions, giving rise to privilege protection issues, nor were they informed how any information they provided would be treated, including that it would be held by the Canberra Liberals. Item (1)(d) of the terms of reference states:
(d) the letter and the ‘haveyoursay’ website may combine to create a false impression that they are proceedings of the Assembly or its committees …
The committee does not believe that this has occurred to the extent necessary to cause substantial interference with the inquiry being conducted by the public accounts committee, given that the website bears the heading that it is an initiative of the Canberra Liberals. The website provides details of the PAC inquiry and includes links to the Assembly’s website and the email address of the committee, through which submissions could be made separately. The survey form was offered as an alternative