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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2523 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

full review of the act to examine all major issues raised following the release of the Gallop report, including the associated legal proceedings, not just the issue of parliamentary privilege.

It is expected that a number of amendments will flow from that review to the Inquiries Act. These will provide for, amongst other things, clearer requirements for ensuring procedural fairness, whilst ensuring that investigations are not impeded and that appropriate immunity provisions exist. This integrated approach will ensure a more effective and longer-term outcome than piecemeal reforms. The review is well advanced and should be completed in time for the August 2003 sittings.

With regard to the amendment proposed to section 14A of the act, it is important to note that section 14A was introduced for inclusion in the act by the Carnell government in 1996 as a response to issues that arose out of the release of the Stein report. The purpose of inserting section 14A of the act at the time was to clarify the privilege status of reports made under the act and provide protection from defamation should a report be distributed prior to being tabled in the Assembly.

Ms Dundas's bill would, instead of providing a solution, actually reverse the whole process and result in a return to the situation that existed prior to the 1996 amendment. While the 1996 amendment was intended to cover issues associated with an early release of a report in case the Assembly did not sit for a considerable period of time, it failed to examine other issues surrounding a report, especially those associated with the various aspects of parliamentary privilege itself and the issue of protecting persons adversely named in a report.

A more considered and integrated approach to the issues is advocated and the government has, as I said, commenced a review to achieve just that end. These are the reasons the government will oppose Ms Dundas's bill.


(6.30): Firstly, I thank Ms Dundas for the document she gave me this morning and the summary of her bill. This was introduced at about the same point Mr Humphries introduced a bill, and I thank Ms Dundas for the talk this morning. We had a good chat, if only briefly, in relation to this.

The opposition, too, will be opposing this. I have a lot of sympathy for what Ms Dundas is attempting to achieve, and it is really a question of the best way of achieving it. It is very different to the bill Mr Humphries put in. I suppose both of them-and, indeed, what the Chief Minister says he is trying to achieve-are going down the same track.

We recently passed an act to enable protection to continue for the McLeod inquiry, which is apparently going to be brought down out of session. Ms Dundas's bill would ensure that, once anything is tabled in the Assembly under the Inquiries Act, privilege flows from there. But it does have to be tabled in the Assembly. Mr Humphries' bill indicates it could be tabled outside of sitting. Given that the Assembly sits from about 42 to 45 days a year, albeit spread out with significant gaps within that, when an inquiry is finished, the public would expect the report to be tabled promptly.

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