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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4125 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

talking about the Constitution as it was in 1900, although it has been amended and we have a different Constitution now. Things change and any discussion about them should be about them as amended.

How much have they been amended in this case? We discovered the amendments yesterday only after these details had been extracted line by line from the documents now being reeled out. It is intriguing that the minute that was tabled yesterday was not in the Chief Minister's question time brief. It was trailed in from the anteroom by one of her advisers when she got into strife on the answer. She was getting into deep water. Her adviser said, "We had better bail her out of this. We had better reveal the existence of this 1996 determination", and another little chapter unravelled and another layer of skin came off the onion and we could see what was underneath, we could see the attempt to cover up.

Then we had the amazing spectacle that we witnessed in question time yesterday, which probably prompted the raising of this matter of public importance today, of the Chief Minister saying that she could not answer questions that went to the function or role of the Commissioner for Public Administration, that she could only take them on notice. There is no sense in asking questions of the Chief Minister, the Minister responsible for the administration of the Chief Minister's Department, the Minister administratively responsible for the Commissioner for Public Administration, as there is a different system now. She is now saying, "If you want to ask me a question, give me a couple of hours' notice, but the bottom line is that you should never ask me a question about the administration of a vital aspect of my department because I do not have the capacity to answer it". She is saying, "The new rule is that I will never again answer a question going to the role or responsibilities of the Commissioner for Public Administration".

Perhaps we will give some notice in future. Whenever we want to ask a question of the Commissioner for Public Administration, perhaps we will rely on standing order 255 and ask the commissioner to appear in this place and question her as a witness. If the Chief Minister now absolves herself of responsibility for the administration of the Public Service commissioner, perhaps we need to approach within this place the prospect of inviting the Public Service commissioner to appear in the Assembly, pursuant to standing order 255, and ask our questions of the commissioner herself. If that is what the Government is proposing, perhaps that is what we need to do and perhaps we need to pursue it in relation to every other statutory officer. As my colleague Mr Corbell pointed out yesterday, we could pursue it with the DPP or anybody else who has a statutory responsibility. Perhaps in future we need to invite them to appear in the Assembly and ask them questions. Perhaps we will not bother about asking the Government because individual Ministers are relying on this ruse of saying, "I cannot be expected to answer questions on what a statutory official in my department is doing or may have done".

We are also talking about a more fundamental issue, a much deeper issue, which goes to the question I asked yesterday about the throwaway comments that the Chief Minister makes on her half-hour show on the ABC, where the Chief Minister basically attributed to the Assembly all responsibility for her failure to secure private sector financing for the Bruce Stadium. It is the same device of not accepting responsibility. It is the arrogance of her saying on her weekly ABC radio show, "Yes, I did expend the moneys

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