Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2630 ..
independent arbiter if you're happy with that."I urge you very seriously to accept that offer.
MR STEFANIAK(8.22): Mr Hargreaves stated that House of Representatives Practice does not specifically address this issue and kept talking about an independent arbitrator. It does, actually, because on page 594, going on to page 595, it says:
The final report of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, presented in 1984, addressed these matters. The committee noted that the trend in respect of court proceedings had been away from ready recognition of claims for Crown privilege and towards examining these claims closely and carefully weighing competing "public interest"considerations, and considered it possible that an analogous evolution in thinking might develop in Parliament to help resolve cases where disputes arose between committees requesting information and Executives resisting their requests; however, it could not be presumed that this would happen. Observing that the Parliament had never conceded that any authority other than its Houses should be the ultimate judge of whether or not a document should be produced or information given, the committee rejected the adoption of any mechanism for the resolution of disputes over the production of executive documents, such as by arbitration by the Head of State, which involved concessions to executive authority. The committee further reasoned that it was inherent in the different functions and interests of the Parliament and the Executive that there be areas of contention between them on such matters, that it was impossible to devise any means of eliminating contention between the two without one making major and unacceptable concessions to the other, and that adjudication by a third party would be acceptable to neither "in this quintessentially political field". In effect, the committee's conclusion was that matters should be allowed to stand as they were.
It seems that House of Representatives Practice certainly does address this issue. Mr Corbell's amendment is, admittedly, a lot better than the one he had before. I certainly agree with the points made by my colleague Mrs Dunne on that. But it still attempts to obtain adjudication by an independent third party, in this case the independent legal arbitrator to be appointed by the Speaker.
I think that all members, even Mr Corbell, might have conceded that the general principle of this matter should be looked at by the Administration and Procedure Committee-absolutely. Yes, we have to make a decision tonight, but I think all the precedents point to the most sensible decision we can make being to go down the path of passing Ms Tucker's amendment-not the second, albeit improved, amendment by Mr Corbell-and look at this document-
Mrs Dunne: We have passed it.
MR STEFANIAK: Sorry, we have Ms Tucker's amendment. We should reject this amendment. By all means, let the Administration and Procedure Committee consider it properly, not on the spur of the moment, and come back to that issue in this way. But we do have to make a decision tonight. I think that Ms Tucker's amendment, which was the first amendment put, is the most sensible. It is very much in accordance with standard practice. Again, I think that we would be going down a particular path at our peril if we were to accept Mr Corbell's amendment, although it is better than the one initially put. That is the course of action that I think we should take. That is the course of action that the various precedents suggest we should take.