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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 4422 ..

Chief Minister-ministerial meetings

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Environment, Mr Stanhope. Minister, on 29 August this year you said in a media release:

As the largest urban centre in the Murray Darling Basin, the ACT accepts its responsibility to contribute to improving the health of the river system, despite the sound practices we already have in place.

Minister, despite this you failed to be present at the most important meeting of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council since its formation, leaving the ACT unrepresented while it was taking the crucial decision about the future of Australia's largest river system.

Why did you fail to accept your responsibility to represent the ACT at the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council on 14 November, which made such vital decisions on the future of the river system?

MR STANHOPE: I thank the member for the question. Essentially it is because I cannot be in two places at once. I am not that good. I was in Hobart at a ministerial council meeting of attorneys-general, at a ministerial council meeting of ministers for censorship and at a meeting of corporate affairs ministers. They were also vital meetings. They also discussed a range of incredibly important and vital issues that affect the future of the nation and the future of each of us on a broad range of issues. Many are fundamental to the day-to-day lives of all Australians, including all members of the ACT community.

I would have loved to be with the ministerial council meeting for the Murray Darling Basin, but I could not. I was in Hobart attending three other ministerial council meetings, and I could just not stretch myself across Bass Strait. I could not reach across the strait, Mrs Dunne. A real pity, it was. I was there, doing my best, at three ministerial council meetings. I would have just loved to be able to do them both. I just could not have made it across Bass Strait.

If I had had a Lear jet or something, I suppose I could have ducked across between agenda items. I could have dealt with agenda item 1 down in Hobart, whizzed across for agenda item 2 on the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, whizzed back to do a couple of items on censorship, whizzed back over again to deal with another item before whizzing back to deal with the ministerial corporations agenda item. That is what I might have done.

Certainly, it is a very important issue in a small jurisdiction-a unicameral parliament-dealing with the range of issues with which we deal. The point that Mrs Dunne raises is a fundamental issue relating to the adequacy of the size of this Assembly. The issue that underlines the matter that Mrs Dunne asks about-other than her desire to score some miserly, petty, little political point about attending ministerial council meetings; some really cheap politics involved in asking, "why can't you be in two places at once?"when you are both the Attorney-General and Minister for Environment-goes to the fact that in a 17 member parliament with five ministers, we are sorely stretched and we have an

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