Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 616 ..
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I have hardly had a moment without interjection from Mr Corbell, and I ask for your protection.
MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
MR HUMPHRIES: Thank you, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker. It has been the practice of governments and departments to make sure that what they commission is what they get. That is not a question of doctoring or interfering, in the emotive language used by the Opposition; that is a question of making sure that the taxpayers' money which is expended in this process actually produces what the commissioning party or department happens to want. You can characterise that in all sorts of emotive language, for example, undermining the independence of consultants, but consultants only in a very few cases are being sought for their unadulterated views on a particular subject. The views of the Ombudsman, for example, on a particular issue, or the Commissioner for Health Complaints, or perhaps the Discrimination Commissioner, reports of that kind - - -
Mr Corbell: They are not consultants; they are statutory office-holders.
MR HUMPHRIES: Indeed they are. That is the point I am making. Those sorts of people produce reports which are independent in that sense. But the work consultants do in the sense of producing reports for the Government, for example, to produce as its own work in due course - in this case a discussion paper on what the Government proposes by way of rural residential development - is a collaboration between the consultant and the Government or a government department. In that respect, there is a requirement, there is an expectation, that the two parties to that contract will work together, will discuss, will negotiate what is in the document. There is nothing illegitimate about that; nor, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, is there anything exceptional about it, because the Labor Party did the same thing in government.
Mr Corbell: Prove it.
MR HUMPHRIES: I will prove it. I hope, Mr Corbell, that when I do prove it, you will be prepared to be forthcoming with some sort of retraction of what you have said.
MR HARGREAVES(4.16): I was not going to speak in this debate; but, I must admit, I was led to it. Mr Humphries spoke with his usual eloquence. I must congratulate him on his eloquence. It is absolutely phenomenal; I am really impressed with it. But it was a bit like a piece of Swiss cheese on this issue. We are talking about a particular report. Nobody would ever deny the Government's right - any government's right; indeed, anybody's right for that matter - to commission a report by an expert and then put out that report and say, "This is the gospel according to St Gary". That is fine; that is great. Where honesty comes into it, though, is in the portrayal of it as something entirely different, portraying it out there in the public arena as an independent report. Interested parties who pick up such a report believe it to be, by that title of an independent report, an unbiased document which in fact contains the expert's view, because that is why you engaged that consultant, and the Government's view, because the Government commissioned it and says, "We want you to say X". But, in the provision of it with an