Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1436 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
That rings a few alarm bells with me. It seems to say that information that is not factual can be given to them but factual information can be given only at the discretion of the Minister. I reckon that there is something wrong. It also states that the secretary to a committee is to contact the Minister's office only. Committees will never get anything done if that is the case. The protocol also states:
Ministers determine whether the attendance of an official or officials before a Committee is appropriate.
The standing orders make provision for committees to call officers and to call for papers. What you seem to be saying to us is that Ministers will make up their mind whether they are going to respond to a committee's demands or not. It seems to me that what the Chief Minister is trying to do is to hobble the committees in some respects, but I did see one provision that I found at least superficially attractive and that was:
Officials are to maintain the highest standards of courtesy in their dealings with Committees.
I would have to say that in my last experience the overwhelming majority of officers who came before my committee were extremely courteous and helpful, but there were a couple who were not. They are becoming notorious, and they will not get away with it for much longer, let me warn you.
Ms Carnell: We are really scared, and I am sure they are too.
MR BERRY: They ought to be, because it gets close to contempt. That is one part of the protocol I have a superficial attraction to. I think it would be helpful if that at least was adopted. Committees can demand that in any event. I say again that I trust the committee has sufficient time to look at this, but I would send a message of caution that overall I would be surprised and many others in this place would be surprised if this was a move to assist the committees in their deliberations. In fact, on the basis of the Government's performance thus far, it would appear that it could be a move to restrict their ability to inquire.
MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (11.23): I will close the debate, Mr Speaker. I am concerned about comments that Mr Berry has just made about officials. I have had no unofficial or official complaints about the performance of any officials. I think it is inappropriate to make comments like that if Mr Berry has not bothered to - - -
Mr Berry: It is situation normal when you are concerned about what I say.
MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, this is important. Mr Berry has not bothered to complain either officially or unofficially about some officers of the Public Service, but stood up in this place and referred to "some" or "a couple of" public servants and threatened them. If you threaten a couple unnamed, you threaten them all. I do not think that is appropriate to a public service when there have been no complaints whatsoever, to my knowledge. Certainly there have been no complaints with my office.