Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 4 Hansard (18 April) . . Page.. 1035 ..
MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.
MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (10.32): Mr Speaker, I present the Inquiries (Amendment) Bill 1996, together with its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MRS CARNELL: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
Mr Speaker, the Government is moving to amend the Inquiries Act 1991 to put beyond doubt the privileged status of reports under the Act. This action is considered prudent in the light of some uncertainties that arose about the privileges and immunities that would attach to the Stein report on leasehold and also the Pearce report on VITAB. Section 14 of the Inquiries Act provides for the report of a board set up under the Act to be submitted to the Chief Minister. The Act, however, indicates no further action. A Chief Minister would, of course, have the option of tabling the report and, once tabled, the report would attract the usual privileges and immunities. The Act, however, is silent on the privileges and immunities that would attach to the report should the Chief Minister make the report available to other MLAs prior to tabling it. This is compounded if the report becomes available and the Assembly is not due to sit for a considerable length of time.
Mr Speaker, the Inquiries (Amendment) Bill 1996 puts the matter beyond doubt. The Bill provides that where the Chief Minister makes public a report of an inquiry submitted to her or him, or makes public part of such a report, the documents will in both cases attract the same privileges and immunities as if they had been laid before the Legislative Assembly. The approach set out in the Bill brings the Inquiries Act 1991 into line with the same immunities and privileges regime set out in the Royal Commissions Act 1991. I think members will find that this is not a contentious amendment. It is simply