Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 August 2017) . . Page.. 2379 ..
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (3.51): The central issue and allegation, as I best understand it, is that Mrs Dunne disclosed information not authorised by the committee, and this references standing order 241(d). In reflecting on how we should respond to this matter there are two things to consider: the first is the Canberra Times report, which Mrs Dunne and Mr Pettersson both referred to, which contains some quotes from Mrs Dunne. It also contains a degree of what I might best describe as interpretation and other material by the journalist, and it is important to distinguish between those two things.
The other thing we are required to consider is standing order 278, which details the criteria to be taken into account when dealing with matters of contempt. That sets out a number of areas, but specifically it says we are required to consider whether, for the reasonable protection of the committees, we need to protect against improper acts tending substantially to obstruct the committees in the performance of their functions. This should not be used in respect of matters which appear to be of a trivial nature or unworthy of the attention of the Assembly. There are other criteria, but that is the one Ms Le Couteur and I have particularly reflected on in considering this matter.
On balance, we consider that the comments made by Mrs Dunne are essentially procedural or informational in nature. The further information she has provided to the Assembly today affirms that view for us. We also do not believe they substantially obstruct the conduct of the committee. Our views on that have been reinforced by the comments Mrs Dunne has just made to the Assembly. I welcome her acknowledgement that on reflection perhaps she was more colourful than she might have been in the observations she made about why the committee was formed. But those of us who have been chairs of committees know that you are asked to talk about what is going on in the committee and that you need to be mindful of giving as much information as you can and being helpful to the journalist and allowing the public to understand what is happening in the committee process but not going so far as to disclose deliberations of the committee. We do not believe Mrs Dunne has crossed that line on this occasion, so we will not be supporting the referral to a privileges committee today.
In considering this matter we reflected on the fact that if members have a view that it is not clear what committee chairs can and cannot talk about when asked to talk to the media—and I think there is an implicit ongoing authorisation for the chair to talk to the media at least about the procedural matters of the committee—the appropriate way to deal with it would be to put a referral to the Administration and Procedures Committee to further elaborate on the rules. We are not sure that is necessarily the case, but if other members have that view, we would be open to a consideration of that question. We will not be supporting the motion today.
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (3.54): I too welcome Mrs Dunne’s comments on this issue. Having been a part of the discussions in the public accounts committee where we reached our initial and only view on this matter of privilege, I have to be very careful. To be honest, I think it is a pretty trivial issue before us today,