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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4170 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

matter and make recommendations. This committee, by a majority, has made recommendations to this house and it behoves this house to take those recommendations on board and to take them seriously.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Minister for Health

Motion of want of confidence

MR SMYTH: (Leader of the Opposition) (11.04): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to move a motion of want of confidence in the Minister for Health.

Leave granted.

MR SMYTH: I move:

That the Assembly expresses a lack of confidence in the Minister for Health for being found to be in contempt of the Assembly by a Select Committee on Privileges.

Mr Speaker, this is a serious charge. We have had from the committee charged with determining whether Mr Corbell had committed a contempt a decision that he did. It was a unanimous decision of the committee. All three members of the committee found that Mr Corbell had committed a contempt.

Mr Speaker, contempt is a very serious charge to lay at a member and at a minister and the whole issue must be treated very seriously. There is no degree of contempt that I am aware of: either you are in contempt or you are not. If you are in contempt, there is a consequence. I think that the clear tradition is that ministers, in particular, found guilty of contempt either should do the honourable thing and resign or should be removed by their leader. It is a spurious argument to say that it was just schoolboy disobedience or that it was a minor offence; it is a contempt.

Mr Quinlan spoke earlier about the struggle by this place for community respect, yet we have sitting on the front bench a minister who apparently is not willing to resign. Mr Corbell could jump up and finish the argument now by tendering his resignation, but I do not think that he will. You cannot say that it is a minor offence: either it is or it is not a contempt. If it is a contempt, then it has a consequence. The consequence quite clearly set out by practice and by tradition in the House of Representatives is that individuals found guilty of contempt, particularly ministers found guilty of contempt, have to go.

The point of the matter seems to be that it is a degree of contempt. I do not understand or believe that there is anywhere outlined in any of the readings that I have a degree of contempt defence: either it is or it is not. As I have said, it is one of the most serious findings against a minister. If Mr Quinlan is correct and sincere about what he says concerning the Assembly wanting to be taken seriously by the people of Canberra, that it does not revert to being a house of farce, a serious finding against the minister should not be something that we brush under the carpet. It is not something on which we say that he apologised, that it was schoolboy disobedience or that it was a small contempt or a large contempt.

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