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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 2703 ..

MR CORBELL (3.40): Mr Speaker, there seems to have been something missing from a large part of this debate, and that is a matter of principle. The principle, I think, was stated very clearly by Mr Kaine; but it seems to have been missed by many other members during this discussion. The principle that we are missing is the one which says that the Executive - the Chief Minister, in this case - should not be in a position to intimidate and punish other members of this place for the political decisions they make by a withdrawal of resources. But that is exactly what this Chief Minister has done, purely and simply.

You can judge it as a vindictive move. You can judge it as a move based on some political animosity. But what is at stake here is the principle that members of parliament can stand up and voice their opinions and act on their conscience, indeed, on a matter of principle, without the fear of the Chief Minister punishing them by a withdrawal of resources. That is exactly what has occurred in this place. I think we have sunk to that level in this place. We are saying that it does not matter how much money people receive; it does not matter about any of those other things; it is all down to where we can find the money. The principle is what is important here, and it is something that, quite clearly, members of the crossbenches and the Government have not understood.

Kate Carnell punished Trevor Kaine because he resigned over a matter of principle, not on a whim. Unlike the reasons of other crossbench members, he did not make his move because he wanted a different allocation. The same perhaps cannot be said of Mr Rugendyke, when he stood up in this place and changed his mind from being a member of the Osborne Independent Group to being an Independent member.

Mr Berry: The difference is that there was not a fallout, though.

MR CORBELL: My colleague Mr Berry points out that perhaps the difference is that there was not a political fallout. Is that the criterion? Is the criterion whether or not there was animosity? That is not a criterion; that is not even a half-hearted attempt at a criterion. So we cannot put it down to that. Mr Rugendyke made the point that perhaps it has something to do with the timing - that his changing his status on the first sitting day was different from what Trevor Kaine did, because he did it a couple of months later. How is that different? Surely the thing that we have to remember here is not when the person changes their status but what they change to and what everyone should be equally entitled to.

If Mr Kaine becomes a crossbench member, he should be entitled to the same as other crossbench members, and his reasons for doing so should be of no concern. If they are, then this Government is using its executive power to intimidate and punish members of this place whom it disagrees with. It is that simple. It is blatant; it is vindictive; it is politics at its worst. If in this place we are going to make a judgment about allocations based on how people behave rather than on what their role is, then that is a very sad day for this Assembly. It indicates all too sadly that, when it comes down to it, just as this Government has done with public servants who disagree with it, just as this Government has done with community groups whom it disagrees with, it will pull their funding. That is the way this Government operates. We cannot afford to let it stoop to the level where members of parliament are threatened, intimidated and punished for the political decisions they make, through the withdrawal of resources, because that is exactly what has happened here.

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