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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (3 April) . . Page.. 1339 ..

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 11.55 to 2.30 pm.

Ministerial arrangements

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for the Environment): I would indicate, for the information of members, that the Treasurer, Mr Quinlan, and the Minister for Health and Planning, Mr Corbell, are at ministerial council meetings today and, regrettably, are not available for question time. However, I am happy to take any questions members may wish to direct to their portfolios.

Questions without notice

Bushfires-Commonwealth assistance

MR CORNWELL: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope. Chief Minister, yesterday, in response to a question from me about a letter you were supposed to have sent to the Prime Minister, seeking assistance with bushfire recovery, you told the Assembly that yes, the letter had been sent. Inexplicably, as far as I am concerned-it is somewhat puzzling-you then refused to table the letter you said you had sent.

Neither the Prime Minister's office nor the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had received this letter as at close of business yesterday. When did you sign this letter to the Prime Minister? When did you send it? I ask you again: will you table it, please, to prove that you have sent it?

MR STANHOPE: The answer I gave yesterday was, "Yes, I have sent it."It was sent from my desk. I will have to check exactly when that was. The letter has been signed and has left my desk. As far as I am concerned, that means it has been sent.

No, I will not table it, Mr Cornwell. This was a letter from me to the Prime Minister of Australia in relation to issues around potential financial assistance. It contains a number of issues, other than just issues around the promise made by the Prime Minister to consider further assistance to the ACT in light of the disaster which befell us. It sets out a number of areas in relation to which we believe further Commonwealth assistance would be warranted, and certainly would be well received. It indicates a number of areas where the ACT government believes that assistance would be best utilised and would best address issues which are of concern to us, as a result of the impact of the fires.

The letter sets out a number of issues. It goes into some other current issues of importance in relation to Commonwealth funding and financing of the ACT. These are not matters which I believe are appropriate to make available generally through the tabling of a document. It is personal correspondence from me to the Prime Minister. If, as you indicate, the Prime Minister has not yet received it, I think it is only appropriate that he at least be allowed to read it before it is made public in this place. I do not believe it is appropriate for communications between heads of government to be tabled before they are apparently received.

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