Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1283 ..
MR KAINE (continuing):
It imposed no additional obligations on the Government other than to concrete in place Mr Whitcombe's place in the negotiating process, as far as I can see. The very fact that it was called a preliminary agreement indicates quite clearly that it was a step towards something else. It is all very well for the Government to beg the issue now and say it was not; that, to quote the Minister for Urban Services, it was only an idea. Since when do we need a contract to embody an idea? The Government has been dissembling on this issue, and I thought that the Minister for Urban Services was the ultimate dissembler on this question.
I have been totally unconvinced, Mr Speaker, by the Government's defence on this issue. The facts do seem to speak for themselves. This seems to have been done largely behind closed doors. People did not know what the Government's intentions were, despite the Chief Minister saying that there was public consultation. It was not instituted by the Government, Chief Minister. None of that public consultation that took place out there was instituted by the Government. It was instituted by other parties. It was instituted by the people from Hall who started to wonder what was going on and demanded to know. It was instituted by Mr Whitcombe in response to that sort of public demand that started. As a developer, I would think it would start to trouble him somewhat. Here he was hoping to get into a major contract for a development and the people most directly concerned were starting to get a bit twitchy about it and starting to ask questions, such as "What is going on?". So Mr Whitcombe took the trouble to go out there and explain to people. It was Mr Whitcombe who made sure that members of this Assembly went and had a look at the location. Where was the Government in all of this? The answer is, Mr Speaker, that the Government was absent, totally absent.
I am not convinced by the defence put up by the Government. They were hoping somehow to get this thing through the system. I am not clear on what their aim was. That has not been adduced. There does seem to be something odd about the whole process. The Government went into this preliminary agreement in the first place when there was no need for it. No such agreement is called for under any contracting process that I have ever been aware of, and it did not prescribe a requirement for any precondition to the contract that was not already required or would, as a matter of prudence, have been done anyway.
I think the Government has failed to answer the general proposition that it was reckless. They did not know and they could have informed themselves very easily. To go into a contract like this and sign it, binding the people of the ACT to any financial consequences, some of which were realised, without knowing what the status was is, I think, something that I find worthy of criticism.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (5.14): Mr Speaker, I rise as one of the two Ministers who are the subject of this censure motion. I want to cover a large number of issues and I think I will need more than 10 minutes to do that. I seek members' indulgence in that respect. First of all, let me make some comments about censure motions generally in this place and the way in which they have been debased, I think, over the last few years.