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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3461 ..

Mr Corbell: Mr Speaker, I would invite you to rule on that.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, I have to ask - - -

Mr Humphries: Mr Speaker, could I speak to the point of order too?

MR SPEAKER: Yes, you may.

Mr Humphries: Mr Speaker, the question asks whether the Auditor-General in effect has gone beyond his brief as Auditor-General and whether he has in some way breached his role as Auditor-General. The Chief Minister is responsible to the Assembly for matters including the Auditor-General and she is entitled to answer that question.

MR SPEAKER: I will uphold that aspect of it, but I will uphold Mr Corbell's comment in relation to any suggestion of an expression of opinion.

MS CARNELL: It will not be an expression of opinion, Mr Speaker. I thank Mr Hird for the question. Mr Speaker, my attention was drawn to the article in today's Canberra Times. Quite frankly, I am sure members on this side, and I am sure the crossbenchers as well, would have been absolutely stunned after reading it. What we saw in the newspaper was a blatant, all-out attack on the independence and impartiality, and almost the competence, of the Auditor-General. It was one of the best examples I have seen of an Opposition choosing to play the man and not the ball.

Mr Corbell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is entirely an expression of the Chief Minister's opinion. It has absolutely nothing to do with her responsibilities in relation to the Auditor-General. I do not see how she can answer this question in such a manner because she is expressing an opinion of the comments of Mr Stanhope in the paper today. It is not in relation to her responsibilities as Minister responsible in relation to the Auditor-General.

Mr Humphries: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker: I have to indicate my view that that is absolute nonsense. The question asked whether the Chief Minister was aware of comments made by the Labor Party in today's Canberra Times, and does she believe that the Auditor-General has acted outside his role. If any other public officer in the Territory behaved in a particular way it would be absolutely within the purview of a Minister to answer a question as to whether or not that officer had behaved appropriately in the circumstances. Defending officers in that role is entirely proper and entirely appropriate, and very much what the Chief Minister is entitled to do today.

MR SPEAKER: Thank you. I will uphold it.

Mr Berry: Indeed. I will rise to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Humphries is right. It is open to the Chief Minister to express a view, but it is not open to a member to ask a question which invites an opinion, so the question is out of order.

MR SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Proceed, Chief Minister.

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