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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (21 June) . . Page.. 2316 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

misleading the Assembly. For the Auditor, the Chief Minister's narrow concept of ministerial responsibility raises the question of who, if anyone, is responsible, and leaves a significant gap in public accountability. Does the fact that the Chief Minister welcomed the Auditor's report and that the government overwhelmingly supports it mean that the Chief Minister is now fully and properly responsible and will accept a broader definition of ministerial responsibility?

MR HUMPHRIES: Let me put on the record that I have never argued that ministerial responsibility means accepting things for which one has a level of criminal responsibility-.

Mr Corbell: Oh yes you have.

MR HUMPHRIES: or where one has deliberately misled the Assembly

Mr Corbell: Yes you have.

MR HUMPHRIES: No, I have never argued that.

Mr Corbell: Yes you have.

MR HUMPHRIES: Well, you produce the evidence of that, Mr Corbell. It is not there. I have been on record more often than anybody else in this place on the question of ministerial responsibility and I have articulated a very clear definition of what that means. It broadly extends to decisions which the minister knew of or ought to have known of that were within the minister's purview, or that the minister had a personal involvement with or ought to have had a personal involvement with.

Mr Speaker, this is a complex issue which, with respect, the question attempts to reduce to absurdly simple proportions, and I will illustrate this point. No-one in this place would suggest, when a minister who orders that a contract be broken when the advice says that that should not occur, and then there are adverse consequences from that, that that would not be a case where the minister ought to be personally responsible. At the other end of the spectrum, for example, you have a situation where there is a doctor in a hospital who cuts open a patient and does so so badly that the patient dies. Is the Minister for Health responsible for that? Of course not. Even you, Mr Stanhope, would not argue that that is the case. The question is: between these two extremes, where is the line drawn?

I have argued consistently, Mr Speaker, for a classical definition of where that line should be drawn. It has been well articulated in many comments on this subject over the years, and I have quoted those on previous occasions. I suggest you go back and look at what I have said about that.

In respect to its enlargement, well, it has been enlarged. It was enlarged by the effect of the decision last year of the Legislative Assembly to require the sacking of the Chief Minister of the day, Mrs Carnell. By doing so-

Mr Moore: The threatened sacking.

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