Page 3997 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

MR SPEAKER (Mr Rattenbury) took the chair at 10 am, made a formal recognition that the Assembly was meeting on the lands of the traditional custodians, and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.


Statement by Speaker

MR SPEAKER: I wish to make a brief Speaker’s statement. On Monday, 15 August 2011 Mr Smyth, in accordance with standing order 276, gave written notice of what he considered to be a breach of privilege. The matter relates to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts’ consideration of a nominee for the position of Auditor-General for the territory, in which the committee was faced with a nominee that was publicly announced, as well as approaches to the committee chair by the nominee and the Chief Minister. Mr Smyth provided me with a copy of the government’s press release that was released on the same day that the committee was made aware of the proposed nominee, a copy of an article in the 3 June edition of the Canberra Times and copies of two emails sent by the chair of the committee.

Under the provisions of standing order 276, I must determine as soon as practicable whether or not a matter of privilege merits precedence over other business. In doing so, I should consider whether the issue is one of substance and is supported by the facts as presented. If, in my opinion, the matter does merit precedence, I must inform the Assembly of the decision and the member who raised the matter may move a motion without notice forthwith to refer the matter to a select committee appointed by the Assembly for that purpose.

As Speaker, I am not required to judge whether there has been a breach of privilege or a contempt of the Assembly. I can only judge whether a matter merits precedence.

In accordance with House of Representatives practice, upon receiving Mr Smyth’s letter, I wrote to the chair of the committee asking her if she could inform me of the committee’s view of whether the committee was of the view that the matter raised by Mr Smyth had caused substantial interference with its work or whether it has caused or was likely to cause substantial interference with the work of the Assembly committee system.

I received a response from the committee chair indicating that the majority of the committee was of the view that the matter had caused interference with its work whilst considering the proposed appointment of the Auditor-General but that the committee was unable to determine whether the interference was substantial. The committee chair also advised that the majority of the committee was of the view that the matter had the potential, if regarded as a precedent and repeated, to cause substantial interference with the scrutiny and oversight role that the parliamentary committees have on behalf of the Assembly with regard to the process of statutory appointments.

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