Page 5519 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2011

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I think it is particularly pleasing that the committee has concluded that the Chief Minister did nothing that would constitute a contempt either in the issuing of the media statement or in the discussions she subsequently had with the chair of the public accounts committee. Clearly, the committee has made a very reasonable assessment that, based on all of the submissions put to it, there simply is no contempt and the Chief Minister has no case to answer.

This really highlights, I think, what the government and the Chief Minister have said from day one. There was no maliciousness, there was no intent in any way to impact upon the decision-making role that the public accounts committee had to play in relation to the appointment of the new Auditor-General. And this Select Committee on Privileges puts those questions beyond doubt. It is beyond doubt that there was no improper role on the part of the Chief Minister. It is beyond doubt that there was no improper role on the part of the proposed appointee and now Auditor-General, Dr Cooper. That is very clear.

What is clear also is the need to clarify the way this will operate in the future. What is clear is that there is nothing improper in the issuing of a media statement, but that it clearly raises concerns about past practice and convention. Therefore there needs to be a discussion about those matters; therefore there needs to be a new settlement about how these issues will be handled in the future. And that is what recommendations 1 and 2 go to the heart of. I think they are sensible and constructive recommendations, and recommendations that we should all welcome in this place.

What I do not welcome are the dissenting comments from Mr Seselja where he seeks to suggest that in some way Ms Bresnan and I acted in some sort of concert to try and prevent this inquiry from being conducted appropriately. That is a malicious imputation and one which I think is most regrettable in the context of the operation of the Assembly’s committees.

The Assembly’s committees operate in a very robust and in a very fair and independent manner. For Mr Seselja to suggest that in some way Ms Bresnan and I acted in some manner because we were unwilling to get to the bottom of what occurred is simply false. It is malicious and it is without any foundation. But regrettably it is the sort of accusation we are all too used now to hearing from the Leader of the Opposition when he does not get his way. I will leave other members to reflect on the fact that Mr Seselja has been unable to convince the committee of his arguments and therefore he seeks to personally attack my credibility and that of the chair of the committee.

This has been a demanding inquiry, a difficult inquiry, and there is only one other point I would like to make before offering my thanks. The first is in relation to the issue of the bar that is set in relation to matters of contempt. It is outlined very clearly in this committee inquiry that in the last two to three decades the federal parliament has only on one occasion found that a finding of contempt has been necessary. The bar in relation to contempt is very high, as it should be. It is a serious allegation and it needs to be substantiated by serious and credible claims. And we did not see that in this case.

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