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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (17 June) . . Page.. 1877 ..



The government will make decisions on whether it announces and releases things. As I've indicated to you, I'll be releasing these figures later this week.

"Later this week"is, of course, code for releasing figures to the media in the early hours of the following morning to avoid the scrutiny of the Estimates Committee. So, there is a recommendation that this blanket refusal of Mr Corbell to answer the question of the Estimates Committee also be referred to a committee of privilege to determine whether or not that is a contempt. Words fail to describe the arrogance of the minister in this case. It is sheer bloody-mindedness, no doubt fuelled by a desperate desire to conceal the shocking blow-out of the April waiting list for public elective surgery-a jump of 232 Canberrans who were added to the minister's list.

Even more sinister than this is the emergence of the document known as "budget estimates 2003", published on ACT Health letterhead, which offered advice to health executives on how to deal with and, if necessary, avoid answering questions at estimates hearings. The document showed contempt not only for the committee but also for this Assembly. I believe that it represents a clear breach of the public service code of ethics.

The department's and the minister's response to the document disclosure was one of contrition. While the committee accepted the apology of the acting Chief Executive of ACT Health and accepted his assurance that the document did not have official status, the minister's lack of co-operation with the committee's inquiry into this matter has not helped clarify how and why this attempt to undermine the estimates process occurred at all.

The committee requested all documents relating to the affair but instead received only a few select sheets. Even so, these documents are disturbing. The document was originally distributed, with a glowing endorsement, to the entire ACT Health executive, by a senior member of staff, described as a director in his signature block, with the words, "Dear all, please find attached an excellent one-pager that"-X; let's call him X-"has put together regarding estimates."This last example is sinister, as it reflects a culture within the government that says it is okay to obstruct the Estimates Committee.

While the minister and his chief executives scrambled to disassociate themselves from the document, the fact that it exists and was widely circulated is indicative of the culture fostered by this government. It is alarming that in the documents provided to the committee there was no evidence that any of the ACT Health executive on a distribution list who received it took any action when they received the documents.

Is it plausible that approximately 30 members did not email back? No one took action. It would appear that in ACT Health this "excellent one-pager"was not an issue until it was leaked to the media.

The report does not identify who the culprit is. However, I feel it is in the public interest to reveal at least this much: the person responsible for writing this overtly political and dishonest document was until recently a political advisor to a high profile Labor senator. This person is acting in a job in the department that does not appear to have been advertised in either the staff bulletin or the Gazette. Indeed, one wonders if there was any merit selection process at all.

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