Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1290 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
Another argument was put in the course of her remarks that the Planning Minister should have known the difference between a lease and a block. Mr Speaker, if I am shown a plan, a document or a deed of some kind, I am perfectly capable of telling the difference between a lease and a block. But if I am reading a speech which has been prepared for me with the words, "b-l-o-c-k" or "l-e-a-s-e", I will read them as block or lease, as the case may be. That was the case here. Mr Speaker, if I am going to be censured for that, so be it, but a standard is being applied here which is ridiculously high and which Ministers in any government will find impossible to comply with on a long-term basis.
As I said before, Mr Speaker, if this motion is carried today, we change the standards; we change the rules. The rule becomes one that you should adopt a different approach. Members opposite have adopted a different approach. Motions of censure have been moved on them in the past. Their approach generally has been to follow what I think was an old dictate from Ian Sinclair: "Never apologise, never retract, never resign". I look back to what I think was the first censure motion in this place. It was against Mr Berry in October 1990 for misleading the Assembly in respect of ambulance crews. Mr Berry - even he would concede that now - simply refused to concede to the house that there was any argument, even though there was very clear evidence that what he said was wrong. He simply stonewalled and, when he was censured at the end of the day, he wore that as a badge of honour.
If we pass this motion today, to be perfectly frank, that is the standard that I think I will adopt in this place as well. Why would a Minister eat humble pie and be censured into the bargain when he has the choice of maintaining his innocence and being censured anyway? Where is the incentive to come back and be truthful to the house? There is clearly none. Mr Speaker, my standard - and the standards, I am pleased to say, of other members of this Government - has been that, if you make a mistake, you come back and you own up to it. We have done that in this case. The argument that we have been reckless in our misleading of the house has not been sustained in this debate. Where is the evidence that we were advised not to do this because there was only one lease and we did not do that? It has not been produced. On that basis, Mr Speaker, this motion should fail.
MR CORBELL (5.39): I seek leave to speak again.
MR CORBELL: I indicate to members that I did not seek an extension of time in my original speech. Mr Speaker, what we have heard this afternoon from Mr Humphries is a most incredible argument. We have heard both our planning Minister and a former Planning Minister say to us, "We do not understand the difference between a lease and a block". And we have heard Mr Humphries say that, when he sees the words written down, he just reads them out.