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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 709 ..

Mr Stefaniak: It was no reflection on the chair, Mr Speaker. I was referring to the government. I do not know if there was a breach of standing orders and I accept your ruling if there was. I am not going to challenge that, Mr Speaker. However, if you have taken any personal offence at my remark, I point out that I was referring to the government not wanting to hear the truth, not you. I had no intention of slighting the chair; I was attempting to slight the government. So I withdraw any imputation on the chair.

MR SPEAKER: Thank you so much. I call Mr Cornwell.

Canberra Day

MR CORNWELL: My question is to Mr Wood, Minister for the Arts. Minister, you advised the Assembly on 22 February, in response to a question from Ms Gallagher, that you would be moving a number of Canberra Day events planned to be held near old Parliament House to the other side of Lake Burley Griffin. You claimed that this was required because of the presence of a fence around Reconciliation Place.

Mr Jeremy Lasek, of the National Capital Authority, has raised doubts about this course of events, saying that this issue-that is, the fence-had only been raised, and I quote, "in the past day or so". Mr Lasek further claims that the only concern raised by event organisers, until recent times, was the behaviour of the tent embassy. We presume that, as the tent embassy is an inanimate object, he means the people, the squatters who are there.

Minister, do you stand by your claim in this place that the change of venue for these events was prompted solely by concerns about the fence and, if so, why did you decide to move the events rather than entering into further discussions with the NCA in relation to what is an inanimate object, namely a fence?

MR WOOD: Let me start with the second part of that question. Yes, there were concerns expressed about the tent embassy. There is no question about that. One of the officers of the government, in company with a naval officer, turned up to inspect the site, to see where tents might go on Canberra Day. Yes, there were concerns.

However, I believe that those concerns were ironed out. They were settled. Communications were passed around, because we talk to people. We do not jump up and down, we do not make heavy threats: we talk to people, we negotiate. You would have seen a statement in the press, from the tent embassy, that they had no trouble with Canberra Day. There were concerns initially. They were worked through and worked out.

I cannot tell you exactly when officers expressed a concern about the fence. However, let's go back a bit further. It was always understood that the fence would be removed in sufficient time for the concert to take place. As time moved on, it became apparent that the fence probably would not be removed in time. Then the matter became critical, and that was the critical matter that determined that the event should be relocated.

MR SPEAKER: Do you have a supplementary, Mr Cornwell?

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