Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3407 ..
MS CARNELL (continuing):
One of the issues highlighted by the report on standing order 207 was that in the event of disruption in the gallery the Speaker's only option is to adjourn proceedings. While in many cases this might be a sensible approach, it is an issue that goes to the heart of the Speaker's ability to manage the precinct to ensure that the Assembly can continue to sit in an orderly way. It is in the wider public interest that the interests of a vocal minority should not impede debate in this parliament. Under the proposed precinct provisions the Speaker has the power to direct that non-members leave and not re-enter the precinct.
There are different views about whether it is appropriate to include the car park in the precinct. Why include the car park? I think the answer is quite simple. Access to the building has a very direct impact on the capacity of the Assembly to operate without outside interference when a demonstration impedes entry into the Assembly or the provision of basic services. Members should also note that clause 13 of the Bill means the Speaker's control and management of the precinct are subject to any direction of the Assembly.
The provisions of the Bill that deal with publications of the Assembly clarify another area of doubt in the existing legislation. These provisions put beyond doubt any susceptibility of staff to legal action because they have published authorised documents. This covers publication and distribution of the proof Hansards, Hansard itself and other reports and papers published under the authority of the Assembly. Only three of the statutory offences potentially apply to members. These are a breach of publication prohibitions, unauthorised disclosure of in-camera evidence and improper influence of witnesses. I think that members agree that this is entirely appropriate. The conduct of members within the chamber should be dealt with by the Assembly through the standing orders. However, these three offences are of a more general application and apply outside the context of parliamentary debate and procedure.
Some of the offences relate to giving evidence before the Assembly or its committees, although the offences apply only when a person has been summonsed. This means it is possible to flag a more formal proceeding by ensuring a formal summons. The current practice is that formal summonses are not generally issued. The Bill does not mean that this has to change. What it does mean is that committees may consider using a summons if the nature of the inquiry justifies a more formal approach. Mr Speaker, the involvement of the public in Assembly committees should not become overly formal. These powers are intended to provide a wider range of tools to make appropriate procedural decisions. As before, the public should be encouraged to participate in the processes of the Assembly.
I would like to give my support and the support of the Government to the Bill. This Bill settles some outstanding issues in relation to the operation of parliament. It also makes a wider statement about the operation of our parliament. The Bill reflects some of the history of the development of parliaments in the Westminster tradition. That is a result of the provisions of the self-government Act. However, the Bill puts the stamp of the ACT parliament on the way the concept of parliamentary privilege applies to this Assembly. Mr Speaker, as we approach the tenth anniversary of this Assembly, it is appropriate that this legislation brought forward by Mr Osborne is passed at this time.