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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4187 ..

MR SPEAKER: I think you have two things you can withdraw: one is your accusation that Mr Quinlan is a hypocrite and the other is your claim that he is guilty of contempt.

MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, I withdraw both of those statements. Let us go back to Mr Corbell. I point out that Mr Corbell's arrogance on this matter is but one in a series of arrogant behaviours by this minister. I refer to two stark examples of his arrogance before the Assembly and the community: first, his thumbing of his nose at the community majority with respect to the Gungahlin Drive issue and, second, his desire to arbitrarily remove religious education from schools when in fact we still had a draft exposure bill to be examined.

MR SPEAKER: Relevance, I think, Mr Pratt.

MR PRATT: I am talking about a document being examined by this place, Mr Speaker. That is relevant.

MR SPEAKER: However, it is not relevant to this debate. It has to be relevant to this debate, Mr Pratt.

MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, I carry on. However, going to the nub of the issue, the government and the minister are accountable to the Assembly. Eventually, the government and its ministers will be accountable to the electorate through the ballot box but at all times the Assembly has a duty to scrutinise governments, and ministers must respond. The minister cannot hold the Assembly and its committees in contempt simply because he does not feel like being scrutinised. In failing to provide information to the Estimates Committee when he should have, he was clearly guilty of disrespectful conduct before the committee.

If the Assembly wants to retain respect for its committee systems, it should treat disrespect of its committees as a very serious issue, and that is the essence here, Mr Speaker. Let us look at this floating document. I refer to the document prepared and circulated within the ACT Department of Health. That was a clear case of conspiring to keep from the committee of this Assembly the facts about hospital numbers. Clearly, if we wish to have ministers and committees take the committee process seriously, there should be a penalty for this breach. I cannot agree, as is proposed by Mrs Cross, that this matter is only one of grave concern. It is much more serious than that. Ms Tucker reflected that there are no degrees of contempt.

Mr Corbell should have fulfilled his duty to both the Assembly and the people of the ACT. If Mr Corbell cannot carry out the will of the Assembly when the Assembly and its committees rightly inquire into matters of governance, he should not be given the responsibility of a portfolio. Mr Corbell should have his portfolios taken from him and I call upon the Chief Minister, in that light, to remove him from his ministerial positions.

MS TUCKER (12.15): I seek leave to speak again.

Leave granted.

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