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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (30 June) . . Page.. 1808 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

Well, just bear this in mind. This involves many millions of dollars. It is a major project. Perhaps it was the biggest thing on the Government's slate at the time. It was being dealt with by the Chief Minister and by the most senior bureaucrats, the top bureaucrats - no-one somewhere down the bottom of the heap - and it was their legislation. They knew about it. Yet we are led to believe that this was an inadvertent, unintentional technical problem. Well, I do not think anybody swallows that. It cannot be swallowed. So the arguments emerged. After other arguments did not hold any water, it was said that this was an investment and we just did not get the guidelines in place. The arguments were smokescreens. That is what they were. They were smokescreens to disguise the problem. Mr Quinlan, I think, has shown that quite well.

The arguments put up by the Government are unconvincing. They have not convinced at least half of the ACT community. They certainly have not convinced the legal experts who have a pretty clear consensus, except on one point, that what happened was simply not legal. On that basis this default by the Chief Minister is much more serious than the problems that emerged for previous Chief Ministers who lost their jobs. It is clear that this Assembly, on the basis of the record of 10 years, on the basis of what has happened with Bruce Stadium, must pass this motion of no confidence in the Chief Minister.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (2.44): Mr Speaker, the Opposition would have you believe that there is only one reason for this motion and that is that the Financial Management Act has been breached, but there are in fact two reasons for this debate. It is just that the Labor Party has been denying their real reason. I will come back to the second reason at a later point, Mr Speaker. The only reason we should be having this debate, given the Government's acknowledgment that the Financial Management Act was breached, is to determine the Government's intent.

Mr Quinlan said he believed that the Chief Minister had deliberately set out to break the law, but at no time did he give any evidence. Mr Stanhope said quite early in his speech that those of us who have been involved with the law know. Well, if you have been involved with the law and you do know, you do know that the onus of proof, the onus of producing evidence, is always there. In this case we are yet to see any such evidence.

Mr Speaker, did the Government deliberately set out to flout the law? Did it act recklessly? Mr Stefaniak addressed his comments to the issue of intent, and it is important that we focus on that issue and the key question of reprehensible behaviour. As Mr Wood started to point out but could not prove, the bar on these motions of no confidence should be high. These are serious issues because it is about the governance of the ACT for the people in the gallery, the people we represent.

Mr Speaker, the question is whether or not the Government deliberately set out to break the law. If the Government did set out to break the law, that would constitute reprehensible behaviour. The way Mr Wood just told it, if you look at it logically, is that we, as the Cabinet of the day, made a Cabinet decision to proceed, because we knew that it was legal to do so, but then deliberately proceeded improperly so that we could undo our own decision and end up with this farce that we have here today. There is no logic, there is no evidence, behind this at all.

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