Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3532 ..
MRS CROSS (continuing):
compromised. Therefore, maybe we need to install a new protocol in here where we see what is going to be tabled before we give leave to do so.
MR SMYTH (3.26): Mr Speaker, we are changing the way this place operates by refusing leave to table this document. Firstly, this is questions without notice. So now there is a new rule under the leadership of the Stanhope government that questions without notice must be broadcast so that people can agree to whether or not documents can be tabled. What is the point of questions without notice? We will be cancelling question time next.
Certainly for all the time that I was a minister leave was granted, and I have asked Mr Humphries if he has any recollection of leave ever being denied for a document to be tabled, and he has no memory of it. I defy anybody in this place to stand up and say that the right to table a document was refused. It is a right that we had-and I wonder whether or not it is a contempt of the parliament, and a contempt of my right as a member, or a breach of my privilege to bring documents into this place and table them.
Maybe we should have another privileges committee to look at that right, because I think what is happening here is a debasement and degrading of the fundamental principle of our right to come into this place and do our jobs. To stop us from tabling documents with a relative amount of ease, I think, is a terrible thing-and this from a government that said it was going to be far more open and consultative and honest. What are you afraid of about us tabling your own advertisement? It is your advertisement. What are you afraid of?
Mrs Cross: Mr Speaker, can I speak again?
MR SPEAKER: Mrs Cross, no you can't, I'm sorry, not without leave.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (3.27), in reply: I'd like to close the debate, Mr Speaker. I just want to indicate that Mr Smyth is quite right to say that it has never been the practice in this place for members to show other members documents before they table them. I might say, if this is the new practice, it is going to work very much against the government of the day, because the government tables far more documents than the rest of the Assembly put together.
I suggest that the whips and the crossbench should have a talk about this afterwards because, with respect, the practice we might be setting by refusing to accept such documents would be most unfortunate. As far as the issues relating to Mrs Cross are concerned and documents being tabled in this place in the last sitting period, from my memory, the document was already a document published in the Canberra Times. The document was not a secret document, a document making any statements which were not already in the public domain. The Canberra Times obviously assessed that they were not defamatory. Otherwise it would not have published them, and we did not seek to have them, having been tabled in this place, published so that they could be used with the advantage of privilege outside this place. Mr Speaker, with respect, I think we are going down a path here which is unfortunate and which we should not go down.
Question resolved in the affirmative, with the concurrence of an absolute majority.