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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2636 ..


(Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services, Minister for the Arts and Heritage and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (8.45): Mr Speaker, in speaking to Mr Smyth's amendment, which my colleagues and I will be opposing, I will be speaking to the motion as it affects me. This opposition has no credibility, especially in matters such as this, in matters such as saying who does things correctly or otherwise.

I recall people on that side criticising this government not so long ago over the email affair. You stood up there and criticised me on the emails. You practically said that the fault was mine. There were inferences that perhaps I had acted to entrap somebody and that perhaps I did not even understand the email system, computing and IT well enough to know what was happening and what was not happening.

This opposition took every step to try to discredit what occurred on that occasion to protect one of their own and to deny that there was any problem at all. To the extent that there was perceived to be a problem, it was really because the Labor Party was trying to misinform people about something. That is my memory of that time.

It is difficult to place in context what Mr Smyth said about the Estimates Committee with what actually happened. Mr Smyth grossly exaggerated. Outrageous hyperbole was engaged in by Mr Smyth at that hearing on 21 June. Subsequently, reinventing history, he said that I said that the committee could not ask me certain questions.

The other day on ABC Radio he said, "Mr Wood in his opening address said, 'You will not ask us questions on these issues.' What Bill Wood is saying is: 'You can't ask us.'"That was not the case at all. He repeated that claim in the Assembly, saying:

Ministers cannot come down and dictate to a committee what a committee can and cannot ask...Mr Wood ignored all of that and...simply said, "Nah, you can't do it. You can't even ask the questions.

I didn't even say that. What outrageous hyperbole!

If you read my opening statement you will see how careful I was in my wording. I did not say that the committee could not ask me questions. I am not so naive that I would think that I would stop members such as Mr Smyth and Mrs Dunne asking questions. I did say that I would not answer questions relating to the details of the bushfires of January this year. Let me repeat that. I said that I would not answer questions relating to the details of the bushfires. That was simply not a matter relating to estimates.

Members of estimates committees are entitled to ask questions within the committee's terms of reference as they see fit. Equally, ministers are free to answer those questions as they see fit. My answer to such questions was that they should be directed to Mr McLeod. Members might not like the answer I gave, but they cannot deny that I gave an answer and they cannot claim that I tried to tell them what questions they could ask.

My answer, if you like, in the first instance was expansive, a good reason for the approach I was taking. Subsequently, that answer could be quite shortened, indeed quite brief, but with that background it was clear. You did not like the answer, whether it was

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