Page 3565 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 26 August 2008

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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am, made a formal recognition that the Assembly was meeting on the lands of the traditional owners, and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Leader of the Opposition

Statement by Speaker

MR SPEAKER: Members, I wish to make a statement concerning certain comments made by the Leader of the Opposition to the media following my decision to name the Chief Minister and his subsequent suspension by the Assembly.

In a media interview with a local television station, Mr Seselja made comments to the effect that I had named the Chief Minister because it was my final week in the Legislative Assembly before retiring, and that I was happy to “slap the Chief Minister” along the way leading up to the end of my time as the Speaker of this Assembly. The comments suggest that I named the Chief Minister not because I thought he was disregarding the standing orders and my directions to cease interjecting, but because I had some personal agenda.

Members may be aware of the convention that Speakers avoid external comment on rulings made in the chamber. While requested to comment in this case, I respected the convention and refrained from doing so. I note that the Chief Minister also commented on this matter, and I acknowledge his remarks and follow-up apology in the Assembly.

Reflections on the chair should only be by way of a substantive motion, as to do otherwise is to undermine the authority that the house vests in the Speaker of the day and runs a substantial risk of drawing the institution of the Assembly into disrepute. I believe it to be a substantial duty of the Assembly to intervene in cases like this to protect the institution.

I consider that the remarks by Mr Seselja, which I have referred to, warrant the Speaker’s intervention because of the accusation of partiality in the discharge of the duties of the Speaker, particularly since they were endorsed by a vote of the house without dissent at the time.

I invite the Leader of the Opposition to apologise to the house for his comments.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition): I do apologise for my comments outside the chamber. They were not meant as a personal reflection. I unreservedly apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and to the house.

MR SPEAKER: Thank you.

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