Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 23 ..
MR MOORE (continuing):
free from acrimony. He used the words "free from acrimony". But Mr Quinlan went on to say that there were certain frustrations, and he described those frustrations, about this matter. Mr Hird then gave the story as to what went on.
I have to say that Mr Quinlan was the chair of this committee. His role in the committee was similar to the role that the Speaker plays in the Assembly. There are some notable differences, but one of the important responsibilities that Mr Quinlan had was to protect each and every member of his committee. Mr Speaker, I have played a part in the presentation of in the order of 100 reports in the Assembly since self-government and, in spite of the make-up of that First Assembly and some of the incredible problems in that First Assembly, I have never heard a story like this one.
Mr Wood: Come on!
MR MOORE: I have never heard a story like this one from those committees. Mr Wood might remember that in the First Assembly, Labor refused to attend many of the committee meetings for quite an extended period; in fact, for the whole period of the Alliance Government, as my recollection serves me. But what were the other members doing when somebody threatened to suspend standing orders to override this right?
Mr Humphries: Which they cannot do.
MR MOORE: You cannot do it anyway. (Extension of time granted) Mr Hird said that he was being intimidated. Ms Tucker, you and I have discussed these sorts of issues on many occasions. You were sitting there considering that committee report. You even commented in your speech a few minutes ago that the committee was forced to produce this report in an unacceptably short time. What about Mr Hird? He sought an extra day so that he could do his dissenting report and give it back to the committee on Monday, within the timeframe of the committee. That would have been a reasonable thing to do. Of course, under pressure, Mr Hird, trying to make sure that he was able to work with the committee, did it in an unacceptably short time. It seems to me, Mr Speaker, that in a committee situation like this each and every member of that committee has a important role to ensure that they do not undermine the democratic processes, that they do not undermine an individual member's right to be heard and that they do not undermine the Assembly committee system.
I started to comment, Mr Speaker, on the suspension of standing orders within the committee. That is impossible. The suspension of standing orders can only be done by an absolute majority of members of the Assembly. In other words, nine members of the Assembly would be required to suspend standing orders. It cannot be done within the committee. But somebody who is being intimidated, somebody who is under pressure, may not be aware of that when this sort of threat comes up. Mr Hird had an absolute right under standing order 248 and each and every member of that committee had a responsibility to ensure that that right was protected. It is frustrating when 16 members of the Assembly want to do something and one member says, "No, I am not giving leave". We see it happen fairly regularly in this Assembly, and it is frustrating. But an appropriate process needs to be in place.