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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3366 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

A company search which I will now table for the information of members revealed that the institute has a number of directors. Two of these directors are listed as Fred Argy and John Neville. Funnily enough, Mr Argy and Mr Neville are actually two of the three referees cited by the Trades and Labour Council, Mr Hamilton and Mr Stanhope as being independent of the institute. Obviously you would not get referees that were not independent of the entity that wrote the report, Mr Speaker; that would not be professional at all.

So, we have a situation where two of the three referees behind this report are not actually independent of the institute but are actually directors of the company. I have nothing against Mr Argy or Mr Neville. In fact, I have never met them. It is not a matter of character, Mr Speaker; it is a question of probity. Why was it that Jeremy Pyner, Clive Hamilton or Jon Stanhope was not prepared to reveal the information that the people they were waxing lyrical about as referees for the report were actually directors of the company?

Mr Speaker, if I got up in this place and said, "Look, I have got as referees these two wonderful people who have run over the ABN AMRO report and they say that it is fantastic", and if it turned out that they were both directors of ABN AMRO, what would happen in this place? All hell would break loose. Those opposite would be claiming, "Shock, horror, we have all been duped. The referees are actually directors of the company". That is exactly what those opposite have done.

Mr Speaker, compare that so-called independent report with the Auditor-General's report brought down yesterday. On the one hand, we have an unsolicited, truly independent report from an officer who is charged specifically with auditing the ACT's books and whom the members of the Opposition were very pleased to endorse for reappointment just recently. On the other hand, we have a report where three of the four authors have publicly expressed their opposition to privatisation and two of the three allegedly independent referees are actually directors of the authors' company.

Mr Berry: Why don't you say it outside, Chief Minister?

MS CARNELL: It is on record.

Mr Stanhope: Attack their integrity outside the house.

MS CARNELL: This is not about integrity; it is about probity. Two of the three referees were actually directors of the company that wrote the report, directors of the Australia Institute. I have tabled the company search, Mr Speaker. It is simply lacking in probity. If Mr Stanhope had not got up in this place and said, "Look, this is wonderful because there are independent referees", there would be no problems, Mr Speaker. But independent referees are not directors of the company. If it was ABN AMRO, those opposite would be crying foul. They would be saying, "Throw the report in the bin". Mr Speaker, the same thing applies the other way round. People who are directors of the company cannot be independent referees.

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