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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1289 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Mr Speaker, it is not the obligation of government in every case to follow the advice of public servants; rather, it is the obligation of government to consider and decide for itself what is the best course of action for the people that elect it. In that case, Mr Speaker, we made the decision that we would proceed with a process which at that stage was not an open process. Mr Quinlan argued that the exclusivity of the deal was wrong and we should be censured, in effect, for having exclusively entered into an arrangement with Mr Whitcombe.

I remind members of this place before they choose to adopt that as a standard in this place that there have been 15 joint ventures entered into since self-government, of which nine were conducted without an open tender process. I believe, Mr Speaker, that almost all of those exclusive, non-open tender processes were conducted by the very party which now moves to censure the Government for having entered into a preliminary arrangement with Mr Whitcombe - the very same party. What standard does that set in this place if we were to pass a motion of censure in those circumstances? You are censured because you entered into an exclusive arrangement, a preliminary arrangement, with some members of your Public Service advising against it. If Ministers are going to do what their public servants tell them, we may as well not have a government. We may as well have a government run by the Public Service. That is not what we have been elected to do, Mr Speaker. We have been elected to exercise our judgment.

It should be very clearly on the record that PALM did not say to me, the Chief Minister or anybody else, "Do not enter into this arrangement because Mr Whitcombe has only one lease". That was never put to the Government - that is, to the Ministers concerned. Mr Stanhope and his colleagues, in all the documents that they have tabled, have tabled none that suggest that that was the case - none whatsoever.

Mr Corbell: Then what was the case? What is your argument?

MR HUMPHRIES: My argument, Mr Corbell, is that there was no advice suggesting to us that this was inappropriate, for the reasons that you have put before the chamber in this motion - that is, that there was only one lease. The Public Service believed, and I concede this, that we probably should not have done an arrangement of the kind that we did. That is true. Members of PALM at least were of that view. But if you are going to censure us because we did not follow the advice of a public servant, we are all in big trouble because when you are a Minister one day, Mr Corbell, you are going to make decisions which your public servants do not like either, and that is not a dereliction of your duty. That is indeed your obligation, on occasions, as a Minister.

Mr Speaker, we have had some other, I think fairly strange, arguments. Ms Tucker has argued in this place essentially, as far as I can tell, that because rural residential is, in her view, a bad idea and because we have pushed this idea we are, therefore, open to a motion of censure in this place. That is a very strange basis on which to support this motion. We are censured for supporting rural residential - that is fine - but how have we misled the Assembly in that respect? She did not at any point tell the Assembly where we have misled it. I cannot understand that argument at all, Mr Speaker.

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