Page 3568 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 26 August 2008
absence, given, in his view, its routine nature. The committee also received evidence that Mr Stefaniak had on a previous occasion made an effort to check that a different letter had been sent around to other members prior to finalisation.
These actions in themselves do not constitute a breach of privilege. Indeed, the committee has found that Mr Stefaniak did not in fact breach privilege. The committee was mindful of standing order 278, which stipulates that the Assembly’s power to adjudge and deal with contempts should be used only where it is necessary to provide reasonable protection for the Assembly and its committees. We determined that Mr Stefaniak’s actions had not seriously affected the work of the committee.
Standing order 277 (g) also had to be considered to determine whether Mr Stefaniak’s actions were an attempt to wilfully publish a false or misleading report of the proceedings of a committee. Standing order 278 (c) required that the committee took into account whether Mr Stefaniak knowingly committed a contemptuous act. After consideration of these different standing orders, the committee found that Mr Stefaniak did not commit a contempt when writing a letter to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services without the legal affairs committee agreeing to the letter.
Although the privileges committee has found that Mr Stefaniak did not commit a contempt, it was found that, in the opinion of the select committee, the legal affairs committee is not being administered in the way that it should be. Specifically, it was found that the practices for requesting documents were not as rigorous as they should be.
In light of this finding, the committee has included in its report four recommendations. These are: (1) that, as far as practicable, where a committee of the Assembly is requesting a person, paper or record, that request should be made at a properly constituted meeting of the committee and, when conveying the request, the chair should indicate in any communication that the committee is exercising its power under standing order 239; (2) that regular training in relation to committee practice and procedures be provided for the secretary of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs and all other committee secretaries to ensure that these staff are able to assist in providing expert advice and assistance in the administration of parliamentary committees; (3) that the guide for committee secretaries be updated to include the issues identified in this report about the practice of committee requests for persons and papers; and (4) that steps be taken to remind the chair and members of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs of the appropriate practices and processes to be observed in relation to actions taken on behalf of the committee.
I am conscious of the demands on the Assembly’s time, so I will not go into much more detail on the privileges committee’s inquiry, but it is necessary to note the findings in relation to the question of how Mr Corbell became aware of the fact that the committee had not authorised Mr Stefaniak’s letter as chair of the legal affairs committee requesting various documents.
This report concludes that Ms MacDonald revealed private deliberations from the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs to Mr Corbell in breach of standing order