Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1796 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
We do not often do so in this place, but the last point is simply that we told you so. We told you that this was going to happen. We warned you twice. We had debates in which we said that this would lead to problems. Today, we have had confirmation from the government that they have done this in the wrong way. We said to set it up under the Inquiries Act. Part 3, division 3.1, section 14A of the Inquiries Act, relating to the tabling of reports, says:
The Chief Minister may lay a copy of a report or part of a report submitted by a board before the Assembly.
The Chief Minister may make a report or part of a report public whether or not the Legislative Assembly is sitting and whether or not the report or part has been laid before this Assembly.
It goes on to say that the report or part attracts the same privileges and immunities as if the report or part had been laid before the Assembly. That is the correct way to do it. We tried twice, not once, to tell you that you would cause problems. The fact is that today the Chief Minister has had a bill tabled to help clean up this mess that he has created. The reference on the notice paper to Mr Stanhope seeking leave to present the Bushfire Inquiry (Protection of Statements) Amendment Bill 2003 is confirmation that you have got it wrong. In your arrogance, you refused to listen to common sense. In your arrogance, you chose to go ahead and set up something which is fundamentally flawed and which puts members of the community, members of your own bureaucracy and probably members of the government at risk.
You refused to listen. You are now reaping the benefit of that arrogance that made you choose your path when you should have listened to other people and chosen the path that offered protection to all people before the McLeod inquiry equally and fairly. The opposition will oppose the motion.
MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (9.08): Mr Speaker, let me just make one observation for Ms Dundas. These are not the government's reports; they are the reports of government agencies. Mr Stanhope was at pains in today's media to advise the public that these reports were prepared without the government being involved, without any hand of control over the agencies. These are the reports of the agencies. I am assuming at this stage that they were prepared with the understanding that they would go through this process and attract privilege.
The point about this matter, Ms Tucker, is that even if we read them and know what is in them, we should not be changing them because they are the reports of the agencies. We stayed away from that. The point that we are reading them at the same time as they are being made public shows that the government has made every attempt to allow agencies to report without the interference of government and of individual ministers, to the point where I think that Mr Stanhope was saying on the radio this morning that he had not read these documents. We intended through the process to read them at the same time.
Mr Pratt: That is irrelevant, Ted.