Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2177 ..
MR STEFANIAK: Scrutiny Report No 16 contains the committee's comments on two bills, 13 pieces of subordinate legislation, two government responses and one interstate agreement. I commend the report to the Assembly.
Report No 2
MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I present the following report:
Legal Affairs-Standing Committee-Report No 2-Standing Order 259 and the Inquiry into the Operation of the Dangerous Goods Act 1975 with particular reference to fireworks, dated 25 June 2002.
MR HARGREAVES: I seek leave to make a statement in relation to that presentation.
MR HARGREAVES: It would have been quite easy for me to let this thing through because of the brevity of the presentation speech by the chairman of the committee, Mr Stefaniak, but I do not feel it appropriate to do that.
Mr Speaker, the issue of a charge being laid under standing order 259 must be seen by this house in a certain context. The charge being levelled at me by a person who has submitted to the inquiry is but one of many hundreds received. It was levelled by a representative of the fireworks industry, Mr John Davey. In his submission, and in others from the industry, Mr Davey also made adverse comments about at least three other persons.
Before the committee would authorise his submission for publication and thus give his comments protection from defamation suit, under privilege, the persons affected were invited to respond. The committee members felt that adverse comments and their responses could be authorised publications. At least they would give both sides of an argument.
I was not officially invited to respond, although I did give my version of events to the committee. This report to the Assembly obliges me to defend myself in public-something, I am not impressed with. The charge per se is not an indictment. It is not the laying of information to support action at law in the event of an offence; it is merely the expression of an opinion that I carried a bias into an inquiry which could result in the individual or his organisation not receiving a fair hearing.
There are some facts about this charge which should be laid before the Assembly. I lay them here not in any order of precedence or priority, but just as they come to mind. The basis of the charge is that statements attributed to me in the press have indicated a bias. Members will no doubt be aware from my position in the previous Assembly that I have favoured the banning of shopgood fireworks, and I have never resiled from this position.
Indeed, the issue of my preference has been used by this person as an excuse to attempt to derail the inquiry. If the individual did not have his way in the recommendations submitted by the committee, he could cry foul and say that the inquiry was concluded in