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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (24 November) . . Page.. 3573 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

him to settle the matter. And if the minister, as is sometimes the case, has neither the courage nor the brains to evolve a policy of his own, they will do their best to find him one. For, after all, it is better that a department should be run by civil servants than it should not be run at all.

It was my task in 1929-31 to change the policy, which had so far been pursued by the Ministry of Transport. We argued it all out. We examined all the snags which the civil servants found for me and which I found for myself in plenty. But at the end of the discussions, when I made it clear what the policy was to be, the civil servants not only gave their best to make my policy a success, but nearly worked themselves to death in labours behind the scenes, in the conduct of various secondary negotiations. Responsibility for policy rests upon ministers, whether they are weak or strong, and it is important that the civil servants should be instruments and not the masters of the policy. They would have been just as loyal to the Conservative ministers, and that is well.

I do not believe that anything like the process which I have just described occurred during the failed hospital implosion. There was no civil servant going to any pains at all to give the Minister all the facts about the implosion. No-one came forward to say that the policy was flawed. There was no argument and no examination, just a total commitment to a can do ethic that made a tragic mockery of the fine tradition that public servants used to follow under the Westminster system.

In summary, Mr Speaker, I await the Auditor-General's report with anticipation to see how our senior officials measure up there. I fear a similar pattern will emerge where public servants have not acted as traditional public servants. The Government has argued that it would be unfair to hold the Chief Minister responsible, Mr Speaker, or her departmental officials have been negligent in their job. Perhaps, but perhaps not. That is a decision for another day.

MR QUINLAN (11.53): Now, Mr Speaker, the day may come when we ask each other, "Where were you on 13 July 1997, the day of the implosion and the day that Katie Bender was killed?". In fact, I was a long way away. I was in Port Douglas with a handful of guys from Canberra, all feeling quite mellow after having completed the 1997 Variety Club Bash. And then the telephone messages started coming in. We heard of the tragedy around the same time as it came on the TV news, and a very, very heavy melancholy came over that room, that one motel room where we gathered, because of the report of one death. Canberra had lost something that day.

I made my phone calls home. I spoke to my daughter who had been at the event and, in fact, had been in the area of the fatality. She described how her husband had gone forward to talk to someone he knew and had seen the splashes coming across the lake, and virtually turned and was screaming for her to get the kids down. She could not make out what he was saying because of all the hubbub. But at that point over the phone, my daughter broke down as she said, "That could have been our kids, dad. That could have

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