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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1276 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

A lease, Mr Speaker, is described as:

... an instrument conveying property to another for a definite period ... in consideration of rent or other periodical compensation ... to take or to hold by a lease, as a flat, house ...

Mr Speaker, I think we on this side of the house have already acknowledged that, according to the dictionary, the terms are not interchangeable. They seem to have clear and distinct definitions. I suspect that for many people, however, the terms are in fact interchangeable. Perhaps we need to be much more careful in our exact and precise choice of words in this place, and I am happy to take that on board. But we need also to remember exactly what we are talking about. We are talking about a preliminary agreement that required a full planning study. Mr Speaker, this was simply an agreement to look at a proposal. If governments were held accountable for looking at proposals as if they were in fact already implemented then government would simply stop.

As the Chief Minister has already said, this was not a joint venture. This has not cost the ACT taxpayers the $20m that Harcourt Hill has cost the Territory. It has cost us just over $100,000, for which we have received some very valuable work that we will use in future for any work at Kinlyside. When a basis for this proposal at Kinlyside could not go ahead, we stopped. We simply did not proceed any further. At that stage it was no more than an idea, and, when it became an idea that was not worth pursuing, we stopped. If we had persisted, Mr Speaker, as others have in the past, that would have been reckless. If we had persisted, as others have in the past, that would have been deliberate. We did not deliberately or recklessly proceed, unlike Labor with Harcourt Hill.

Mr Speaker, the Government then was committed, as it is now, to a full and proper planning process, including a look at all social and environmental impacts, before we proceed to any form of rural residential in the ACT. The Government also made it quite clear well before the last election that it was its policy to support rural residential in the ACT. Indeed, in its response in December last year to the Rural Leases Task Force the Government said quite clearly that it supported rural residential. This was also made quite clear during the election campaign.

Mr Speaker, the issue here is whether or not the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister have recklessly or deliberately misled the Assembly. This comes back to the issue of what is a lease and what is a block, and whether the terms were used in a way that was deliberately misleading. Mr Speaker, I do not believe that members here have demonstrated any recklessness or wilfulness in misleading the Assembly; nor have they demonstrated a deliberate intention to mislead the Assembly. As the Chief Minister pointed out in her letter to all MLAs, the confusion between "lease" and "block" was inadvertent.

Today we have heard a number of members opposite use language that may be considered misleading. Mr Berry, in an interjection, referred to this as a joint venture. It is not a joint venture. Is that deliberate, reckless and misleading? Mr Quinlan referred to it as a deal. What deal? A preliminary agreement to continue to talk is hardly a deal. Is that deliberate, reckless and misleading? Mr Stanhope also used language that somebody might consider misleading when he said, "Here comes the killer punch".

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