Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1282 ..
Mr Stanhope: And Attorney-General.
MR WOOD: And Attorney-General. Mr Humphries says, "I was confused". Who is going to believe that nonsense? Who could possibly believe it? Mr Speaker, in the terms of the motion, I believe it has been clearly shown that the two members concerned deliberately misled the house. It also has been most clearly shown that they recklessly misled the house. Members here must support the motion.
MR KAINE (5.07): Mr Speaker, I intend to be brief, but there are a couple of points that I would like to make in connection with this debate. I am not going to traverse the argument about the difference between a lease and a block, and whether people really understood that or not. I must say that one thing that was said today troubles me greatly; that is, that the Chief Minister rested her defence on this statement - and I quote: "We believed that Mr Whitcombe was bringing the whole of the Hillview property". I have to ask the question: Why did the Chief Minister believe that? Did she simply believe it because Mr Whitcombe said so? What I find astonishing is that the Chief Minister and the Attorney-General, the Deputy Chief Minister, have available to them the entire resources of the ACT Government which owns the land management data system for the ACT. If they really wanted to satisfy themselves all they had to do, surely, was ask and somebody would have told them, even if they did not know, what the true situation was. So I am a little disturbed at the fact that the Chief Minister is resting her defence on that proposition, that "we believed that something was the case", when, clearly, she did very little, if anything, to establish the validity of that belief. For a government to act, to sign an agreement, to sign a contract without satisfying themselves as to the facts of the case, seems to me to be a dereliction of duty.
But the more important issue for me is something that really has not been dealt with today, and that is why was there a preliminary agreement? Why was such an agreement signed? It was not necessary. The Chief Minister has told us that it contained all of the prerequisites to a contract. It set down the fact that there had to be a preliminary assessment. There did not need to be a contract signed to ensure that was the case. That is a requirement under Territory law. So there did not need to be an agreement between the Government and Mr Whitcombe to have a preliminary assessment under the Land Management Act carried out. That was required anyway. She then went on and she said:
Proceeding with the development was also dependent on assessments of its financial feasibility, and architectural, engineering, town planning, land use, market and other relevant matters.
Well, those matters would have to have been addressed whether there was a preliminary agreement or not, and the Government, I assert, would have been derelict in its duty had it proceeded to a joint venture contract without having clarified all those issues beforehand. Yet, somebody deemed it desirable to sign a preliminary agreement. The very fact that that was done begs the question: "Preliminary agreement to what?". It was a preliminary agreement to signing a joint venture contract, and it was merely the first step to getting there. The only reason that I can assume why such an agreement was signed is that it gave Mr Whitcombe some rights, some prerogatives in negotiating with the Government on this matter. Mr Speaker, it gave the Government nothing.