Page 2378 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 2 August 2017

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explained to the journalist that Auditor-General’s reports were routinely inquired into and that the level of inquiry depends on how the public accounts committee wants to deal with them.

I think from recollection, my understanding is that Mr Pettersson may have taken exception to my appearing to speak on behalf of all members of the committee. It is a little bit difficult. I do speak on behalf of all members of the committee when I make public comment but I may have overstepped the mark and I do recollect that I apologised to the committee if they thought I had overstepped the mark.

There was no question as to who was the source of the information to the Canberra Times, because I was quoted in the Canberra Times. So we did not really have to have an investigation into that. The Canberra Times asked me whom we had written to. I did not divulge whom we had written to but I said that we had written to a range of people who were mentioned in the report. I was asked how many people we had written to. I said about 15. That was reported in the Canberra Times as the committee had written to 15 people.

Then the rest of the article was essentially the Canberra Times rehashing the story so far in relation to the certain land acquisitions of the Land Development Agency. I did not think anything more about it. It was raised with me: you wrote to me, Madam Speaker, which made me think about it a bit more and there were discussions. It only occurred to me when the discussions arose that I had failed—and I apologised to members for this and I apologise again—to notify members after my contact with the media. I should have informed members so that their first warning came from me that there was going to be a story about their inquiry. It should come from me rather than reading it in the Canberra Times.

It was an oversight on my part. I have apologised. I do not find any problem in apologising for my oversights. I am surprised that Mr Pettersson has decided that this matter is so important. Without reflecting on your decision, Madam Speaker, given that the committee had decided that there was no unauthorised disclosure and, therefore, we could not consider whether or not our deliberations had been impacted because they clearly had not been impacted, because it was not unauthorised and it was not a secret as to who the person was who had spoken to the Canberra Times and the person who had spoken to the Canberra Times was authorised to do so, I am surprised that we are here today discussing this motion.

I hope that this attempt by the government to conduct a privileges inquiry is not an attempt to hamstring the public accounts committee in its inquiry into an issue which is clearly of discomfort to the government. We have to ask ourselves: is the non-government member of the public accounts committee being pursued because the government is uncomfortable about the extent of the inquiry? I will just leave that there. I leave it for members to contemplate that and contemplate that in relation to the motivation for this motion, which we will be opposing.

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