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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4059 ..

Tuesday, 10 December 2002

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am, made a formal recognition that the Assembly was meeting on the lands of the traditional owners and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Offensive words

MR SPEAKER: Members, I note concerns raised by Mrs Dunne and her reference to the practice of the House of Representatives, which is based on that of the United Kingdom House of Commons. The situation was a difficult one, and possibly without precedent in this chamber. A range of very serious charges against a member had been made in a document by the then Leader of Opposition, a copy of which he tabled in the Assembly. The member who was the subject of the allegations was not present at the time.

These concerns were raised with me in the adjournment debate on Tuesday, 19 November. Mrs Dunne, in referring to the practice of the House of Representatives and the House of Commons, asked that I review the remarks made in the chamber earlier that day by Mrs Cross and rule on their appropriateness.

I was also asked to make a ruling on the device of making a statement in the circumstances which, in the opinion of Mrs Dunne, was to the disrepute of the house. Earlier that day Mrs Cross had been granted leave of the Assembly concerning, in broad terms, her former membership of the Liberal Party. In her statement, Mrs Cross referred to material widely circulated by Mr Humphries inside and outside the chamber.

Members will recall that on 24 September 2002, Mr Humphries, by leave, made a statement concerning Mrs Cross' position in the parliamentary Liberal Party. He also presented a copy of a letter from himself as Leader of the Opposition to Mrs Cross on the matter of her expulsion from the party. In that letter a number of serious charges were made concerning the behaviour of Mrs Cross. At that time I had expressed a caution about impugning a member, and later that day I informed the Assembly that, in the absence of an order of the Assembly authorising the publication of the letter, I would not be authorising its publication beyond members of the Assembly.

Mrs Cross, the subject of the charges made, appeared to have been deeply offended by them and sought an opportunity to respond in the Assembly on 19 November. Serious allegations had been made and the member responded in strong tones in the Assembly. I have to say that I would have preferred that neither occurrence had taken place-that is, the tabling of the allegations nor, in turn, the response.

As I stated above, I do note Mrs Dunne's concerns, both on the appropriateness of certain remarks made and the device of making them during a statement by leave. However, in view of the possible unique circumstances as outlined, I do not propose to go through the allegations point by point, nor do I propose to take any further action on the matter.

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