Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 485 ..
any way unequivocal about them? Did he in any way equivocate? Did he say, "This is news to me; I will investigate the matter."? No. Yesterday the Minister stood up in this place and said, "This report is independent". Even when we drew to his attention the changes that had been made, he still insisted that it was independent.
There is a deeper and more fundamental principle at stake here, and that is that he is the responsible Minister. He is the person who is accountable for the actions of his officers. That is a fundamental concept underlying responsible government through a legislature and the dynamic between a legislature and an executive. It is that simple. He is responsible for the actions of his officers. If he was not aware of them, he should have been taking action to make sure he was aware of them. He should have been taking action to make sure he knew what was going on in his department. Ignorance is not an excuse under the Westminster system. Ignorance is not an excuse in any parliament. He is responsible for the actions of his departmental officers. He knows that this report was changed and that when he claimed it was independent clearly it was not.
Mr Speaker, the Minister must take responsibility for his actions. This parliament cannot afford to have a Minister presenting a report as independent when it has been changed significantly and when the consultant complained repeatedly of the changes that were being made to his study. It is that simple. It is a black-and-white argument and I urge members to support this censure motion.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (11.41): Mr Speaker, as Mr Corbell has said, it really is a black-and-white case today. The black and white is that Labor do not like this policy. They have opposed it from the start. It is black and white that they do not like the Assembly decision from May last year that the Government should proceed with rural residential development in the ACT. That is quite black and white. When you cannot attack the decision, you go for the process. I am the Minister responsible, and I take responsibility for what is done. It is interesting that Mr Corbell would quote the first couple of lines from my statement last year but not go on a little bit further. Perhaps there is an "independent" in there that is in the incorrect place, and I would take responsibility for that, but the full quote reads:
Mr Speaker, today I am releasing for community consultation an independent discussion paper on rural residential development in the ACT. The community will have a period of six weeks from 30 October to 14 December 1998 in which to consider the study and make comments. The discussion paper was prepared as part of -
part of, Mr Speaker -
an independent study for the Territory -
the independent part -
by a team of expert planning and economic consultants, TBA Planners, in association with Spillin Gibbin Swann and Planning Australia Consultants. The study was undertaken in the context of the