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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (12 November) . . Page.. 3428 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

with the act and the strong view of the ACT Government Solicitor's Office, in any event, that it did apply.

As a result, the Chief Minister's Department sought further legal advice about the application of the act and met with the Ombudsman and the ACT Government Solicitor to clarify the issues then in dispute. As a result of that meeting, the Ombudsman has now resumed investigation into the matters that were raised in relation to the University of Canberra. At the moment, the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman are each separately investigating those matters.

You touched on suggestions that retribution has been meted out as a result of the whistleblowing. I have had a discussion with the vice chancellor of the University of Canberra about that issue and asked him to give me a brief on the issue, from his perspective.

The university makes the point adamantly that it is not aware of any illegality or wrongdoing or suggestion that any officer of the University of Canberra sought, as a result of the disclosures that have been made, to punish or to mete out retribution of any sort.

In terms of the position that the government might take, I believe it appropriate at this point, in the face of the joint inquiries by the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman, to await the outcomes of those inquiries before taking any further action.

I am aware that one of the people at the heart of this issue has approached the ACT Police. Irrespective of that approach, the ACT Police have chosen not to launch a formal investigation. In light of that, I am not sure that there is anything further the ACT government can do at this stage.

Ms Tucker, you ask: what next? We have a dispute about whether the public interest disclosure provisions apply to the University of Canberra. I agree, in light of this matter-and perhaps you were pointing to this-that we need to put the issue beyond dispute, and I will find a way through.

It is the university's position and an expression of their independence that it will not be subject to an act. Other jurisdictions have now extended their public interest disclosure provisions to universities operating in their states. We are now presented with a policy decision that needs to be made.

In light of the obvious gap in whistleblower protection at the University of Canberra, some action needs to be taken, and we stand ready to do that, subsequent to the handing down of these two reports.

MS TUCKER: Thank you for that comprehensive answer. But there is one question you did not answer, which I will ask as my supplementary. I am interested to know what government's response is to the university's claim that they will only apply the PID back to May. For this matter to be properly investigated, it should apply back further than that.

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