Page 2294 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 16 June 2009

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aggravate the defamation through this place by establishing a privileges committee. The response is to drag that public servant and other public servants before a privileges committee to compound the very issue that Mr Cormack wrote to Mr Hanson to seek to address in a polite and professional way; namely, “Mr Hanson, you are wrong. You have defamed me. You have defamed my officers. I would appreciate it if you desisted.” What he should have said in this letter is, “If you do not desist, I will sue you.” I would support him in that. (Time expired.)

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.33): I think I am speaking to Ms Bresnan’s amendment. Madam Deputy Speaker, there is a lot of misunderstanding about privilege and what it means, and I simply refer members back to page 4163 of Hansard of Tuesday, 18 November 2003. Ms Dundas reported on a privileges committee that inquired into the contempt of Mr Corbell and his department in 2003. Her first recommendation is that the public service be better educated about how the Assembly works, how the committee works and how privilege works. It would appear that in 2009 we still do not understand how privilege works. This proposed inquiry would seek to investigate whether there has been a breach of privilege.

It is interesting to cast back to 2003. Sometimes, when I hear Mr Corbell, it is like being in a time warp. Perhaps Mr Corbell is a time lord. In 2003 he said, “It is just innuendo. It is just wild assertions. Do they have evidence to back that up?” Well, that is the point of a privileges inquiry. It is not for us in this place to judge what has gone on. The Speaker does not make a ruling as to what has happened. The Speaker gives precedence to a motion of privilege and the Assembly decides whether a matter should go to a privileges committee for the committee to decide. That is the appropriate procedure. Indeed, in 2003 officers in the department of health produced a document that gave officials the tools to undermine the estimates process.

There are issues here and the question really is: have those issues been addressed in this department? All we are saying is that for members to do their jobs properly people have to understand how privilege works, what the implications of privilege are and to seek advice from a committee of privilege, in this case as to whether or not there is a contempt here, whether there is a breach of the privilege of this place. It is a longstanding issue in this place and it has not been resolved. I would hope that the committee might also look at issues concerning what protections members have and what assistance they might receive to get that protection. It is very easy, with the full force of the government, to take one action. Alone in the Legislative Assembly and with limited resources, it is an entirely different prospect.

Simply, the Speaker has ruled on precedence. He has not made a ruling as to the truth or not of the matter. He says there an issue here to be addressed. The appropriate place for that issue to be addressed is in a committee of privilege.

Question put:

That Ms Bresnan’s amendment be agreed to.

The Assembly voted—

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