Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2524 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
What led to these bills were delays in relation to the Gallop report-and there were problems there. But there are clearly instances when it is proper for the results of an inquiry to be put out publicly as and when they happen, the public not having to wait until the Assembly sits. That is the main reason why we feel there is a better way of doing this. I thank Ms Dundas for introducing this bill; it is a very important area. I look forward to seeing what the government is going to bring in. If it does it by August of this year, that will indeed be quite interesting, and I hope they are accurate there. Obviously, we can look at this again. The opposition will not be supporting Ms Dundas's bill.
MS TUCKER(6.32): The Greens will be supporting this bill because it removes a clause in the Inquiries Act that awards parliamentary privilege to the report or any part of the report when and if it is made public. The section which Ms Dundas's bill removes is 14A(3), which reads:
Where a report or part of a report is made public by the Chief Minister before it is laid before the Legislative Assembly, the report or part attracts the same privileges and immunities as if the report or part had been laid before the Assembly.
We went through a debate exactly on this issue last week, which was informed by legal advice sought by the Clerk. In essence, I have a view that we should not be granting parliamentary privilege to reports of inquiries established under their own act by the executive of government. If privilege is necessary when it comes to publishing reports, then clearly we can amend the act to ensure that it is granted.
I note that members of the board of inquiry have the protections and immunities of a Supreme Court judge, just as legal practitioners assisting the board have the protection of a barrister and witnesses appearing before it have the same protection and liabilities as witnesses in the Supreme Court. It seems fairly careless to deem a report protected by parliamentary privilege when the proceedings that gave rise to that report are protected in such a specific and different way. I do not think this is such a complex issue.
I am glad to hear the Chief Minister say he will undertake a review to look at it further, and I will be interested to see the results. But tonight I am happy to support this bill.
MS DUNDAS(6.34), in reply: Mr Speaker, to close debate, I thank members for their comments today and the ongoing debates that have been raging through this building about how we conduct inquiries of this place and of the executive and how they are granted parliamentary privilege in the protections of this house.
My bill today removes ambiguity by stating that privilege only exists once the report has been tabled, effectively ending any prereleases of a board of inquiry report. The bill would also ensure that the Assembly is the first to know of the outcomes of the inquiries performed by the executive under the Inquiries Act. That would be by ensuring that the inquiry report attracts parliamentary privilege on the day that the