Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2651 ..
Twenty-six out of 135. I just want to draw a practical parallel because we are a very small parliament. I have just been talking to my confederates here about how we can get a privileges committee together out of 17 members, when one of those members has been accused and others were members of the Assembly committees which are concerned with the matter now before us. All of a sudden the number of members from which to choose has been reduced. We have to find three people. One is going to be from the opposition side and there are politics involved; one is going to be from this side, and there are politics involved. We are all honourable people and we will say we will be on it, but no matter what happens, this privileges issue is going to be decided by a single person, and I think we should reflect on that.
We are so serious about these issues and, as I said, if David Williamson were writing the a play about this he could do nothing else but make it a comedy.
MRS BURKE(9.48): As may have been said already today, the opposition has moved its amendment more in sorrow than in anger. However much the Treasurer might want to make light of what has happened, I do not think we should resile from the fact that these are serious matters.
I believe that what happened during the estimates hearings has the potential to set a very dangerous precedent in this place, and that has probably been said, too. In effect, it has the potential to give the executive greater power than that of the Assembly. I, as a fairly new member of this place, thought that was an absolute no-no. I think we need to take that point very seriously.
I was astounded to see contempt of the Westminster system. I am very saddened that it should have been laughed at and made light of. If you do not like the pomp and ceremony and the order, the respect and the dignity of this place, then shame on you. We should be proud of the system of governance that we have and the democracy that we enjoy. I, therefore, view the actions of the ministers named to be a very grave matter indeed. As I have just said, it is an out and out attack on the Westminster system that we enjoy. It is not up to ministers to rule what is in and what is out.
Mr Wood said he would not answer questions relating to the detail of the bushfires. He said he would talk about income and expenditure, as detailed in the budget. Mr Wood said that historically Assembly estimates committees have ranged widely. He said he would give appropriate answers to appropriate questions. In the committee's view, both general and quite specific questions on the management and impact of the January emergency were appropriate, both in terms of the achievement of outputs and the impact of the bushfires on the ACT's overall financial situation. Indeed, there is a separate section in our budget on bushfire expenditure. Or was I mistaken? Any questions that were asked were totally relevant.
As I see it, it was out of order and an abrogation of responsibility not to answer those questions. If there is nothing to hide, Mr Speaker, then referring this matter to a select committee will vindicate the actions of the ministers. I would think if enough members have risen in this place to share their concern about the estimates process and what did or did not happen, then surely those ministers would be only too happy to have their names cleared and be totally vindicated. They should have nothing to fear.