Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 1676 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
conflict of interest and falling into accusations of corruption and those sorts of things. You must be impeccable. If your ministerial code of conduct was, as you said it was, something which would guarantee effective performance, your performance in relation to the matter raised by Mr Corbell and me was appalling. I note that you said in your response to the dissenting report, "This matter is not appropriately addressed in the report of the Select Committee on Estimates". Then where is it appropriate, Chief Minister? Nowhere, it seems, do you want it to be raised.
Let me say this from the outset. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has been mentioned. The ACT Branch President of the Pharmacy Guild wrote to me in relation to this matter. I have written back to him and made it clear to him that nobody is having a shot at the Pharmacy Guild. What we are saying is that the Government is unable to manage these things. The Government made a lease grant to the Pharmacy Guild on preferential terms. I expect the same would apply with any other national organisation - there is nothing wrong with that - but then we found out that it was made by Mrs Carnell, and she is a member of the guild. I suspect that she made the decision one way or the other. At the end of the day, we saw two significant grants, totalling $14,230, in two donations.
Now, it is not a matter of whether something untoward was occurring, but what it looked like. The ordinary person in the street would be entitled to raise an eyebrow about this. Let me list the circumstances again: A preferential land grant is made to the Pharmacy Guild; the Chief Minister is a member of the Pharmacy Guild; the Pharmacy Guild makes a significant donation to the ACT Government. This is not a reflection on the Pharmacy Guild, but it is certainly a reflection on the way that the Government manages these things. I think the ordinary person in the street would be entitled to form the view that something was not right. In fact, they would be entitled to form the view that there was a conflict of interest.
What Simon Corbell and I said to the Chief Minister was: "We reckon you ought to have a management system that avoids these circumstances. Perhaps you should have a look at your code of practice and ensure that, when these conflicts are likely to emerge, there is a statement which ensures clarity about the way these things are determined to make sure that, say, the relevant Minister is not associated with the decision". But this was a decision of yours, as far as I can make out. I think it is worthy of more attention.
Another matter which was raised in the report concerned the FAI Insurance Group. They made a major donation to the Liberal Party. I am sorry: I withdraw that. They made a major donation directly to Kate Carnell. And that is the significance of these issues. These are not donations to the Liberal Party; they are donations directly to the Chief Minister, the decision-maker, in relation to a whole range of issues across the Territory, one of which, I suspect, was in relation to the rental of office space. There was a decision on a substantial tax and charges waiver in respect of the Waldorf Apartments - FAI own those - and then there was a donation to the Chief Minister. So, let us put the chain of events in place: The Chief Minister, or the Government, rents space off FAI Insurance; the Government gives substantial tax and charges waivers to FAI; it is a joint sponsor in the FAI Rally; and there is a donation that comes back to government. It smells of fish, in my book, on the surface of it. The ordinary person in the street would be entitled to come to that view. What the Government has to do is to make sure that that suspicion cannot arise, and it has not done it.