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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . . Page.. 1346 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.42): Mr Speaker, I want to put on the record that the Government is prepared to table a number of documents relating to this matter. I repeat very emphatically what the Chief Minister has said. We have nothing to hide or to be ashamed of about the process which has been used here. Members of this place have been quick to describe this as a fiasco, a scandal, a breach of the law and a misuse of public money. Not one of those allegations has been substantiated by any hard evidence.

One comment has been made - and this has largely generated the most recent debate - that suggests that the Financial Management Act provisions do not support the details of the financing arrangements which have been undertaken in respect of Bruce Stadium. I in particular as Attorney-General have been asked to affirm that the legal process has conformed with the terms of the legislation. That is a matter on which we have sought advice from a prominent QC in Melbourne, who was chosen simply for the reason that he is one of a very few senior counsel in Australia with expertise in government financing. It is not an issue one would ask any member of the Bar to look at without the need for very extensive research if they had not had any practice in that particular field. That is why Mr Tracey of the Melbourne Bar has been asked to do this job.

I concede quite openly on the floor of this place that there is a question mark over that question. There is not a question mark over the issue of whether the Government has acted within the intention of the law. There is a question mark over whether the strict technical requirements of the legislation have been fully complied with. Members have said in this place in the debate today - Mr Stanhope said it - that if the Government has acted illegally this is the most serious possible matter that could be put to the Assembly. I would put it to Mr Stanhope that that is a view which is a little bit overstated. Indeed, it is quite naive in the breadth of the expression.

Let me give an illustration of that fact. For a number of years the former Labor Government of this Territory collected millions of dollars illegally from franchisees in this Territory - millions upon millions upon millions of dollars, probably several hundred million dollars from those sources. How do I know that? I know that because the legislation had to be changed - retrospectively, I might point out - in about 1993. Ms Tucker, I see, loses interest in the debate at this point, so I have to ask her to listen to this.

Ms Tucker: I have not lost interest. I am looking at your latest amendments.

MR HUMPHRIES: Fine, Ms Tucker. The legislation had to be amended retrospectively in about 1993 to protect the collection of tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions, of dollars in franchise fees by the Government, at that stage a Labor government, because the Government had illegally collected revenue under those provisions. Did any of the Ministers in the Government at that time or subsequently offer to resign because of what they had done? Of course they did not. Was any opprobrium attached to that process? No, it was not. We support the idea of amending the legislation because of that weakness.

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