Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 8 May 2008) . . Page.. 1745 ..
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (12.55 am): The government intends to oppose Dr Foskey’s amendment to require the Electoral Commission to give the minister an annual report on investigation and referrals of complaints received by the commissioner for tabling in the Assembly. This would impose an unusual burden on the commissioner that would not apply to other investigatory office holders. The government does not consider this step is necessary as the commissioner routinely reports on complaints received, in the Electoral Commission’s annual report.
I should go on to add that I think the issue of truth is a very complex one in the context of an election campaign. It places the Electoral Commissioner in an invidious position to have to determine what is true. The commissioner is right to make the point that ultimately it is for voters to decide whether claims made by political parties and candidates are true and to vote accordingly.
The proposal that Dr Foskey puts forward would simply inevitably lead to an enormous bureaucracy trying to make judgements about the truth, which, in the election context, would be an almost pointless exercise.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (12.56 am): I think Dr Foskey’s amendment makes sense although I do not think that the premise on which she presented her argument—that the commissioner should differentiate on claims of truth—is the most compelling argument for the amendment. I agree with the attorney in that that would be a nightmare.
Every day we sit here, there are barbs back and forward across the chamber. Whilst the term “misleading” the place is not appropriate, the clear inference on numerous things that are undertaken by various members of this place is that they are not being completely truthful in the way in which they report, deliver, defend or analyse a particular circumstance. That seems to be central to all the debates we have in this place. How a commissioner could do that would be an interesting challenge.
But I do think that the principle of action taken on complaints and a reporting mechanism back on that is not an unreasonable one for something as important as electoral issues. From memory, I think that the Ombudsman does this. The attorney said, “We do not expect this of other investigators.” I think the Ombudsman’s office report on complaints received, in their report. The general principle contained in here is worth supporting.
Proposed new clause 103A negatived.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (12.57 am): I move amendment No 42 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 1779].