Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3141 ..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
It was the will of the people's Assembly to appoint the Minister Assisting the Treasurer a shareholder of ACTEW. I agree entirely with Mr Kaine. It is improper and it looks bad for the Government to have Mr Humphries on the committee. Standing order 224, under the heading "Pecuniary interest", states:
A Member may not sit on a committee if that Member has any direct pecuniary interest in the inquiry before such committee.
Mr Humphries is a shareholder of ACTEW and carries shareholder responsibilities. As a consequence - I am not a lawyer - it would seem to me he has a direct pecuniary interest in ACTEW. The future of ACTEW is embroiled in the options for addressing the superannuation liability, so I would contend not only that it is a mockery of the committee but also that it may well be outside the bounds of standing orders and Mr Humphries may be disqualified.
MR RUGENDYKE (6.58): I have spoken before on the amendments. I am perturbed by the apparent nomination of Mr Humphries for membership of the committee. Mr Kaine spoke very eloquently in expressing exactly my thoughts on the matter. I think Mr Kaine said it extremely well. It also appears to me that the spirit, if nothing else, of the provisions of standing order 224 ought to preclude a shareholder of ACTEW from being on the committee. I disagree that Mr Humphries ought to be a member of the proposed committee.
MR CORBELL (7.00): I am amazed at the Government's proposal that a Minister - a member of the Executive and the Cabinet - should sit on a committee which is scrutinising a policy decision of the Executive. That is effectively what the Government is proposing. It is not an acceptable proposition to this side of the house and it should not be an acceptable proposition to any non-Executive member of this place. It would seem to me that it sets a very dangerous precedent. It sets a precedent that Ministers can sit on committees of this Assembly and inquire into their own activity, as Ms Tucker pointed out earlier. Ministers could examine witnesses, many of whom could actually be public servants they are responsible for.
This is an outrageous proposition. It is probably designed for one of two things - either to bring the committee into disrepute by creating a situation where it is seen no longer to be credible or to put a stick in the wheels to make the whole thing fall over, which would suit the Government's agenda very nicely, I would suspect. The Government has a stated position - the sale should be approved or rejected in a fortnight's time. The Government has not renounced that position; it is still the Government's position. The nomination of a Minister serves the political advantage the Government is trying to win here.
I think we have to look beyond the political tactics and manoeuvrings which are occurring in this place at the moment and look at the principle of it. Is the Government seriously proposing that from now on it is all right for a Minister, a member of Cabinet, to sit on a committee of this Assembly and inquire into the various policy directions, and alternatives to policy directions, that are proposed by the same Cabinet