Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 194 ..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
I think it is time that we went back and had a look at a little bit of history of ACT inquiries. I would like to draw members' attention to the Stein Report of 1995-96. Admittedly, Mr Speaker, this inquiry was held under the Inquiries Act, but in an attempt to make things as informal and as inclusive as possible, all hell broke loose. There were submissions, writs and injunctions; there were applications to cross-examine witnesses because exception had been taken to people making written submissions to the inquiry claiming maladministration and impropriety. There were not enough protections under the Inquiries Act to stop injunctions and the whole process being mired in legal process.
This, Mr Speaker, is what may happen with the McLeod inquiry. We have heard that there are people who have concerns about serious issues that they want to have raised. Some of them were raised this morning on the AM program on ABC radio. These matters may not be accurate or they may be accurate, but at this stage we do not have a means of determining that.
It is very interesting that if someone makes an allegation in the media which is discomforting to a politician, they are a "gutless wonder", but if they make an allegation that brings succour, they are a courageous whistle blower. We do not know yet whether the people who made allegations to the AM reporters are gutless wonders or courageous whistle blowers, but we need to have the mechanism to find out.
My concern, and the concern of members on the opposition benches, about the current d inquiry relates to the status and the capacity of the inquirer. In fact, he has no powers to protect anyone, he has no powers to force anyone to give evidence, and this means that it is an inquiry without teeth, without guts.
What we have to do, and what this motion brought forward today by the Leader of the Opposition does, is give people the power, the certainty, the confidence that when they approach an inquiry or a review, they will be protected; that they will not be coerced; that they will not be subject to injunction, to defamation writs and to all the sorts of other things that have happened in the past. If we have to look at our history we will see that things have gone wrong in the past. As a result of the Stein report the Inquiries Act had to be amended and given more teeth. We have the mechanism in the Inquiries Act to give the people of the ACT confidence and certainty that their concerns will be raised and aired in a dignified, appropriate and impartial fashion.
It is obvious that we have to get the story. We have to look at what has happened. We have to look to see if there were past failings and, if so, whether they are the failings of the Stanhope government, the Humphries government, the Carnell government, the Follett government or the Kane government. There may be failings. If there are, we have to bring them out and have a look at them. We have to be grown up enough to admit that we have made mistakes. There cannot be innuendo. We cannot get to the end of the inquiry with people feeling that they have not had a fair hearing.