Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 26 August 2008) . . Page.. 3572 ..
Obviously, the ACT Assembly is a small organisation and we probably do not need that level of staffing, but I would suggest that how we staff our committee office in the future does need to be looked at, in order to assist in alleviating the pressures that are placed on our committee secretariat and, through them, the committees. The committees cannot do their work without the support of the secretaries. I just wanted to place those thoughts on the record. Once again, I thank the privileges committee for this report. It does, as I said, appear to be a considered report. I look forward to reading it in detail.
MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (10.52): I want to make a couple of comments on this report and go back to some of the deliberations that happened within the committee. The test in law of what is contempt is pointed out very clearly in standing order 278, which reads:
The Assembly will take into account the following criteria when determining whether matters possibly involving contempt should be referred to a Select Committee on Privilege and whether a contempt has been committed, and requires the committee to take these criteria into account …
The first criterion is:
(a) the principle 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 and for Members against improper acts tending substantially to obstruct them in the performance of their functions …
There was a bit of deliberation around whether the actions of Mr Stefaniak actually formed contempt. The committee found—and it was my view—that, whilst it did not obstruct the committee’s process—it may have obstructed Mr Corbell’s process—it did not substantially obstruct this process. But it was my view that Mr Stefaniak went very close to contempt in that he did obstruct Mr Corbell’s performance of his function.
I would like to make a comment on what Dr Foskey said when she said that the role of the chair and the role of committees should be pointed out quite clearly. Each of our committees did have training from the Clerk’s office at the start of this Assembly, and each committee member was afforded that training. I certainly was; I was instructed on how, as a chair, to take instruction from the committee when writing papers or documents. I think it was very clear—and it is stated in the report—that Mr Stefaniak did act without the authority of the committee, but that he felt that, in doing so, he had the committee’s best interests in mind.
It is also important to note, as the committee has, that he instructed Ms Jaffray to write that letter to Mr Corbell. So whilst we have made a recommendation on training for committee staff, the secretariat, it was the instruction from Mr Stefaniak that initiated this inquiry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.