Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (3 April) . . Page.. 1344 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
the existing Housing budget. The additional funding [the $10 million from the Treasurer's Advance] is for social housing.
Chief Minister, there is a contradiction between these two statements. Which is the correct one?
MR STANHOPE: I do not object to your basic premise that there is a contradiction. Mr Quinlan, in referring to Mr Ronaldson, was referring to advice received by cabinet. I remember the conversation. Some time ago either you, Mr Smyth, or one of your colleagues asked me a question about my first knowledge or understanding. I did not remember the dates specifically. I said they were something I would have to look to. That remains the case.
Certainly, I remember such a discussion as that alluded to by Mr Quinlan yesterday. It was with Mr Ronaldson at a budget cabinet meeting. So the comment Mr Quinlan made yesterday is entirely consistent with my recollection of the fire hazard presented by the state of repair of significant public housing units in the ACT.
I am not quite sure what you regard as inconsistent in the letter you refer to. Certainly, there were conversations. I was first made aware of fire safety issues through that briefing from Mr Ronaldson and officials. But I would have to go through all my files and through cabinet files to determine whether or not there might have been an advice previous to that. Certainly, fire safety, the danger many of our tenants were in, and the duty of care first came gravely to my mind in the briefing Mr Quinlan alluded to yesterday.
MR SMYTH: I ask a supplementary question. Chief Minister, is it not a contradiction for the Treasurer to say that cabinet received advice from the Under Treasurer to spend the money on fire safety and for the Under Treasurer to write a letter saying, "You already have the money in your budget; do not spend it"?
MR STANHOPE: I am not aware of any contradiction. You may think there is some contradiction between the letter and oral briefings the budget cabinet received. I remember quite distinctly receiving with significant alarm the advice, backed by legal advice, that the ACT government was potentially in breach of its duty of care to its tenants as a result, essential, of a failure by the Liberal government to ensure that our public-
Mr Smyth: The legal advice does not say that. That is not true.
MR STANHOPE: I am not talking about the legal advice. But we know that after seven years of Liberal equivocation, sitting on hands, refusal to act and disregard for safety advice was provided to cabinet that we were faced with a potentially serious consequence of the fire preparedness of major public housing units. It is down to you. It is down to your disregard for public housing tenants. It is down to your disregard for the proper maintenance of major public housing units in Canberra. It is a matter of shame which the Liberal Party must bear.