Trashed due process, ministerial inadequacy, childish parliamentary performances, cosy, questionable relationships between big business and government … if ever a state needed an Independent Commission Against Corruption, it is Tasmania.
The Liberals and Greens agree … and Liberal Leader Will Hodgman was the most recent to intelligently elucidate his reasons why (on local ABC morning Talkback yesterday).
Paul Lennon’s Labor is vehemently opposed to an ICAC. In November last year Parliament debated the issue. It’s an education to read the Hansard of that debate. But you will need several double-strength coffees …
1 November 2006
ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION
Mr WILL HODGMAN (Franklin – Leader of the Opposition) – The Opposition supports the motion and indeed, this complements a motion I will move in this House which also notes the need for the establishment of an independent anti-crime and corruption authority to investigate instances of public sector corruption in Tasmania and to protect the public interest and prevent breaches of public trust. I will formally move that motion at the conclusion of the Greens’ private member’s time this afternoon.
The Tasmanian Liberals have previously called for the establishment of a suitable authority that can, amongst other things, seek to prevent occasions of corruption, maladministration and mismanagement by the Government or indeed the public sector. We are on record as having moved a motion to that effect in 2004 and, as I say, we currently have another motion on the books. I would also make the point that we are not necessarily firm in our view as to what type of body or authority should be established but we would also support the notion of a parliamentary committee to make that determination and to investigate all options available and appropriate to the State of Tasmania, bearing in mind, of course, that things are different in Tasmania from other States. I would not necessarily be advocating the sort of authority that exists in other States and which carries with it a fairly hefty price tag in many instances, but fundamentally the price of good governance and indeed public confidence in government is a price that I think the Parliament and the Government should bear.
There is certainly a need and a justification, at a reasonable cost, for the setting up of an appropriate body that will provided oversight and investigatory powers to look into corruption, the process of government – although not, as the Leader for the Greens has said, necessarily for matters relating to crimes or offences, but indeed the very workings of the Parliament. The supplementary matter that I propose this week – the establishment of an independent parliamentary standards commissioner – is a role that could well serve in ensuring that the workings of this Parliament, the performance of its members, and indeed most particularly its ministers, are properly looked into, monitored and investigated in cases of breach. I will get to that particular matter when I move my substantive motion.
Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens has identified a number of the features and the advantages that can follow from the establishment of an ICAC- style body. I will not dwell to repeat them, but the State Opposition certainly appreciates that not only can it predominantly investigate, expose and prevent instances of corruption or maladministration, but importantly also, as the New South Wales ICAC does, it can perform the function of educating public authorities, public officials and members of the public about corruption and its detrimental effects on public administration and on the community. So it is important to look at this particular aspect of the benefits that can flow from establishing this type of body. It is not just there to investigate complaints or specific instances of maladministration, but can in fact play a very positive role in informing and instructing the community and indeed, members of parliament, and provide guidance to members of parliament as to their responsibilities.
Recent events that have unfolded in this House have, I believe, revealed a very startling scenario of some ministers not appreciating their ministerial responsibilities, and without wanting to sound patronising – it applies to all members of the House – if there is an independent body that provides guidance to members of parliament to ensure that they are as apprised of their responsibilities as far as possible, that is a good thing. I cannot imagine it would be something that is opposed. It would also, importantly, enhance public confidence in parliamentary process and governance and the operations of the public sector, which is also a very positive thing.
Equally, it is important to note that an ICAC-type body functions independently of government. The authority’s operations and its investigations are free from political involvement and interference. It is not under the control of government, politicians or bureaucrats; rather, it is responsible directly to the Parliament and may fall under the domain of a parliamentary committee or report to the Parliament independently. That is good not only for the operations and the integrity of the authority and for affording it the confidence of the public, but it also enhances greater accountability in government and parliamentary process, because the ICAC itself is independent and accountable.
This is especially important, because it does provide for greater confidence from the public that the ICAC-type body is not biased or subject to the dictates of the government of the day, and these are fundamental advantages of an ICAC-type body. Any government of any colour that has nothing to hide or fear would surely not oppose the establishment of such a body, so I await with interest to hear the response from the current Government in a moment. I think this motion is well worthy, given the matters that have unravelled over recent months, which I will not go through now because they have been debated at length. In fact, some of the matters worthy of consideration have been identified by the Leader of the Greens, in addition to a few others, but I will make further comment on these matters when I move my substantive motion. On behalf of the State Opposition, we support this motion and the proposal.
Mr WILL HODGMAN (Franklin – Leader of the Opposition) – I move –
That the House: –
(1) Notes that the Lennon Labor Government has not delivered the proper standards of accountability, transparency, responsibility and good governance that the Tasmanian public can rightly expect from their elected representatives.
(2) Calls on the Lennon Government to establish an independent anti-crime and corruption authority to investigate instances of public sector corruption in Tasmania to protect the public interest and prevent breaches of public trust.
(3) Calls on the Lennon Government to refer to the Joint Select Committee on the Working Arrangements of Parliament the establishment of a Parliamentary Standards Commissioner with responsibilities including the monitoring of parliamentary standards and the receiving and investigating of complaints regarding parliamentary accountability, ministerial responsibility and adherence to the Ministerial Code of Conduct and other related matters.
Mr SPEAKER – Do you require a vote?
Mr WILL HODGMAN – I do, Mr Speaker.
From the outset I make an observation, which is not just mine but is also shared, I am convinced, by a broad section of the Tasmanian community, that the Lennon Labor Government, despite its rhetoric and the statements of the Premier in his state of the State address, has belatedly come to the conclusion that Tasmanians rightly expect the highest levels of transparency, accountability, transparency and good governance from their elected representatives. What we have seen unravel over recent months is anything but, and on that basis it is appropriate that this House debate the establishment of an ICAC-type body. We have had a sort of debate on that, so I will not go back over that ground. My motion also points the Government towards referring to the joint Select Committee on the Working Arrangements of the Parliament a proposal to establish a parliamentary standards commissioner with responsibilities including the monitoring of parliamentary standards and the receiving and investigating of complaints regarding parliamentary accountability, ministerial responsibility, adherence to the ministerial code of conduct and other related matters.
I will from the outset acknowledge that I have borrowed heavily from a report from the Australasian Study of Parliament, released in August of this year, entitled Why Accountability Must be Renewed. Having looked at this report and its proposal for a parliamentary standards commissioner, I will just take a short moment to read from it, as it describes what I propose should be investigated by a committee of this Parliament.
‘A Parliamentary Standards Commissioners should be appointed as an independent officer of the Parliament. The Commissioner’s main responsibilities would be:
overseeing the maintenance and monitoring the operation of the registers of members’ and senators’ interests;
providing advice to each House about the provisions of the guide to the key elements of ministerial responsibility and any code of conduct adopted by either House, whether existing or recommended to be introduced;
monitoring the operation of the guide in each code and, where appropriate, proposing possible modifications to the Parliament;
providing advice on a confidential basis to individual ministers, members and senators and to each House about the interpretation of the guide and any code;
preparing guidance, and providing training for ministers, members and senators on matters of conduct, propriety and ethics;
receiving and investigating complaints about ministers, members and senators who are allegedly in breach of the guide and code;
investigating evidence of possible breaches of the guide or code by ministers, members and senators on the commissioner’s own motion;
reporting to Parliament and thereby the public, upon:
(1) compliance with the principles and spirit of the guide in each code;
(2) any failure (whether wholly, partly or in spirit) to comply with the provisions of the guide and code;
(3) the extent and seriousness of any failure to comply;
(4) the responsibility of any person for such failure;
(5) whether any matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee of the House of which the minister, member or senator is a member, or was at the time of the event(s) in question.
In exercising the functions of the office, the Commissioner shall have the privilege of the Parliament; that is, investigations will enjoy the authority of the House of which the minister, member or senator is a member, and reports shall have parliamentary privilege.
The commissioner would be appointed on the recommendation of an all-party parliamentary committee.’
So that I submit is a model that is certainly well worth considering. It is similar to that which exists in the United Kingdom, where they have a similar authority designed to oversee and maintain the register of members’ interests, to receive and investigate complaints about members who are allegedly in breach of the code of conduct, and so on. I submit that as a very good starting point, and I am indebted to the Australasian Study of Parliament group who has provided this because it does give us a very useful framework in which this Parliament could consider these very proposals.
I want to say in opening that I am a lawyer. I do not think I am or pretend to be; I am in fact a qualified lawyer. I have due respect for the rule of law . Yes, I wholeheartedly acknowledge and appreciate that there is another matter in another jurisdiction that is –
Mr Lennon – We know your motive.
Mr WHITELEY – No, I am on the record now to refute what would no doubt be your nonsensical suggestion that this is some way compromises that. The fact that there is a trial going on in another place by no means absolves you and your government of your responsibility to maintain the highest standards of government and accountability and transparency, which you talk about but which you cannot deliver.
We have seen you do it again today when you come into the House, refuse to answer questions and sit down with complete contempt of parliamentary process, undermining confidence in this House. As a result we see newspaper articles describing Tasmania as rotten to the core, because our very government treats due parliamentary process and a respect for democracy with contempt. We see it again and again. You talk about it in your state of the State address but cannot deliver. This exists separately to what is happening in court; it has nothing whatsoever to do with that. The fact that you repeatedly breach a ministerial code of conduct and nothing happens has nothing to do with the court. The fact that you continually stonewall, sit down and refuse to answer questions has nothing to do with what happens in this court.
Mr Lennon – This court?
Mr WILL HODGMAN – Happens in court. You can be smart about it. You know exactly what this is about. This is about your Government and most of this predates this other matter that is going to court. This goes back months and months. This goes back to your special deals to special mates, which we now know exist.
Mr Lennon – Oh.
Mr WILL HODGMAN – Well, I think we do. I think that has been established.
Mr Lennon – I do not know what you are talking about. What are you talking about?
Mr WILL HODGMAN – There is no issue about that. We have a little document with two signatures on it, Premier, that shows exactly that.
Mr Lennon – Explain yourself.
Mr WILL HODGMAN – Yes, I am explaining myself.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. I caution members that you are going perilously close to a situation where sub judice could come into question. I must ask you to be very mindful of that. I just warn members.
Mr WILL HODGMAN – Mr Speaker, I appreciate what you say and I will not be diverted by the Premier or his new deputy’s attempt to try to distract attention from the fact that, quite rightly, the Tasmanian public has every right to expect the highest levels of accountability, transparency and good governance from their elected representatives. The record shows that they have, sadly, not received that. What is the Government’s apparent opposition to this proposal? It is contemptuous, I presume, of the Auditor-General, who I suggest should be busying himself or herself more with matters financial and less about scrutinising the performance of ministers or any other member of this House.
Similarly, it is regrettable when this House has to refer to the private sector matters for independent audit that could be well dealt with by an independent parliamentary standards commissioner. You have a code of conduct in place which is worthless; it is breached repeatedly but nothing comes of that. Ultimately you have a situation where, as the record shows, you do anything but answer simple questions and respond to simple propositions. We have seen it ten minutes ago when you could not even respond substantively to the debate in question. You used diversion and fallacious arguments to suggest that this is somehow disrespectful to other officers who have separate, independent and unrelated responsibilities.
This very motion details what goes on in this situation. It holds people to account for breaching their codes of conduct; it provides a proper scrutiny of registers of interest. We have seen regrettable instances where registers of interests have been used as a political tool, and have been found to be not properly based and this has required a retraction. I refer to a situation that occurred during the election campaign. That is a regrettable situation where there is, unfortunately, insufficient control and scrutiny over that particular matter with respect to debate in the public arena – and that is used for political advantage.
Mr Best – You are not talking about his how to vote cards?
Mr WILL HODGMAN – No, I am not talking about that. That matter was dealt with by another authority, as you well know – dealt with and finalised. That was handled in the appropriate forum.
The proposal before us today I hope will receive a more substantive response from the Government as to why this particular authority is not appropriate or would not assist here in Tasmania, because I strongly suggest it does and I formally move the motion.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. Just before anyone else speaks, I want to remind members that there was reference made to court and so on. In fact nothing is before the court at this stage as far as a trial is concerned. The matter is set down for hearing, as I understand it, on 10 January next year, and then from that a certain process will take place. There may or may not be a trial. I want to remind people on all sides that they should not be creating an atmosphere of general discussion. If you examine the Hansard of the last speech, it was mentioned on several occasions. There is no trial at this stage, but a hearing has been set down, and I do remind members of that.
Mr LENNON – Mr Speaker, that is right, and I thank you for the –
Ms Putt – I hope you’ve read the paper and are going to actually address the specific recommendations.
Mr LENNON – I do not need your interjections; I have not even started.
As I said in the last debate, I have been in this Parliament now since 1990, and I had occasion today to remind myself of some of those earlier debates. I invite members to go back and have a look at some of the more colourful performances of the member for Denison, Mr Michael Hodgman, concerning these things when it suited him, when he sat on this side of the House. I went back and reminded myself of some of the things he said. He can look at me quizzically, but he has been a member of the legal fraternity in this State, as he keeps reminding us, for so long that he now describes himself as the State’s most senior QC and therefore the most formidable lawyer in this State. He knows how to mix up his roles as a member of parliament and a lawyer, do not worry about that. I can just imagine what the member would be saying if he was representing one of the three people who were charged by the DPP last week. You would be out in front of this Parliament, wouldn’t you? You know exactly what you would be doing if another member of this Chamber was behaving like you have behaved in the last two days and if you had been appointed to defend one of these people. You would be out the front of this Parliament calling for that member to be sacked and charged with contempt. Yes, you sit there silent now because that is exactly what you would be doing.
Mr Michael Hodgman – I think I’m getting to you.
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr LENNON – I know that is exactly what you would be doing because I have read some of your comments. Let there be no misapprehension by anybody inside or outside this Chamber as to the motive, particularly that of the member for Denison, Mr Michael Hodgman. His motive is to use this House to erode the presumption of innocence; let there be no mistake about that.
Mr Michael Hodgman – What about debating ICAC instead of personal attacks?
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr LENNON – This motion that is before the House now goes beyond the first motion to the issue of parliamentary standards. As I have said in this House before, this is a matter which we will happily debate with the two opposition parties. I do note for the record that those people who record the events of Parliament for general public consumption place a higher standard of performance on members of the Government benches than they do on members of the opposition benches. There is absolutely no doubt about that.
I also note for the record that many of those people who now record Parliament in the various forms of the media for wider public consumption would not have been here two, four or six years ago and therefore would not know the standards and the erosion of those standards that the members opposite speak about as they attempt to besmirch the good name of individual members on the government benches. They ought to have a close look at themselves and their own performance. The Leader of the Opposition moves the motion, but it was the Leader of the Opposition who provided a fake document to the Examiner, and he knows he did. This is the one.
Opposition members interjecting.
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr LENNON – This is the one – remember? Yes, this is the one.
Mr Whiteley – Is that the best you can do?
Mr LENNON – I have plenty.
Opposition members interjecting.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. Interjections should cease. I am not going to put up with the same level of behaviour that happened at question time. I warn members collectively on both sides that I will not tolerate it. If you want to miss question time in the morning and go out for 24 hours, the next person who forces my hand will do so, so I warn you all.
Mr LENNON – This is a great example, Mr Speaker. Here is a member of parliament who comes into this Chamber and lectures the House on standards of behaviour expected of members of parliament, but who sends to the media a document which is not legitimate. I can see members of the Greens benches laughing about that; I presume they think it is funny. What it was designed to do was to attack the character of another member of the House. What sort of standard is that?
Mr McKIM – Point of order, Mr Speaker. The Premier has mistakenly described what happened. None of us were laughing and I want to place on the record that he is wrong.
Mr SPEAKER – It is not a point of order.
Mr LENNON – The behaviour of the current Leader of the Opposition followed the behaviour of one of his predecessors, the member for Bass, Mrs Napier, who came into this Chamber as Leader of the Opposition and used a false document to vilify another member of the Chamber. That was in 2000.
Mrs Napier – It was a document that I said you should investigate.
Mr LENNON – She came into this Chamber and used this House as a coward’s castle. She used a fake document inside this Chamber. Is that the standard you are talking about?
Mrs NAPIER – Point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask the Premier to withdraw the suggestion that a fake document was actually produced by us because it certainly wasn’t. In fact the Premier knows very well that I brought it into this Parliament to get him to investigate it.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. The member will have the opportunity to make a contribution, hopefully at the conclusion of the Premier’s speech. At that time, if she believes that she has been misrepresented, she will have the opportunity to speak, or I will allow it on the adjournment if there is not enough time.
Mr LENNON – For the member’s benefit, I did not say she produced a document; I said she used the document. She brought it into this Chamber deliberately to besmirch the character of another member of this House.
Mrs NAPIER – Point of order, Mr Speaker. I will not allow the Premier to suggest motives that were not mine, and I ask him to withdraw his comments.
Mr SPEAKER – The member feels offended by that, but I just point out that there have been people in this Parliament in the past week or so who have been suggesting deals for mates, and others talking about the disgraced former minister – all those sorts of things. This sort of debate in this atmosphere is similar to what I had to chair between 1989-92 when the same judgments were made in relation to a royal commission. A lot of people can potentially be damaged, and damaged for a long time, on all sides when debates get to the level of –
Mrs Napier – You guys crucified him.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. I did not crucify anybody; I had to sit here and try to chair the Parliament and was able to come out with most members’ personal standing intact. It is not an easy job, particularly when the emotions of the House run high. I caution members to be careful of how they address each other and to put their remarks through the Chair.
Mr LENNON – Mr Speaker, I think the worst aspect of that event in 2000 was that the member refused to apologise after the police investigation proved that the document was a fake. Is that the standard you were talking about when you thought you would move this motion? Or was it when Mrs Napier put out the press statement? Or was it, in this instance, when Mrs Napier, the member for Bass, the shadow spokesperson for health, put out the press statement claiming that the woman had lost her finger? Was that the one you are talking about? Do you remember that episode?
Mrs Napier – I didn’t put out a press statement. I was reported –
Mr LENNON – Yes, you did. The women in question repudiated Mrs Napier’s story. She said, ‘I did not expect the Liberals’ –
Mrs NAPIER – Point of order, Mr Speaker. The Premier suggested that I put out a press release that said that she lost her finger. I did not, and ask him to withdraw it.
Mr SPEAKER – The member will have time to redress any claim.
Mrs Napier – But he’s lying.
Mr Lennon – Oh! Is that the standard you’re talking about?
Mr SPEAKER – Order. I ask the member to withdraw that.
Mrs Napier – I am happy to withdraw that.
Mr LENNON – Mr Speaker, this is what the lady in question had to say in the Advocate on 8 December 2004:
‘I did not expect the Liberals to issue an inaccurate media release without my knowledge and I am very disappointed Mrs Napier chose to beat up what happened to my finger.’
Mrs NAPIER – Point of order, Mr Speaker. The woman, at the time, had not read the press release and once she saw it she knew we did not say it.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. It is not a point of order. The Premier is making a point in his debate and you will have an opportunity to correct any record where you feel you have been misrepresented. We constantly hear people making assertions in their contributions and that is part of the cut and thrust of debate. I ask that the Premier continue.
Mr LENNON – So we have had one interjection from the member saying there was no press release, now we have a second one saying there was.
Mrs NAPIER – Point of order, Mr Speaker. The member is again falsely suggesting that I said there was no press release. Of course there was, but it did not talk about the loss of a finger – it did not.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. The member will have an opportunity to address the issue later.
Mr LENNON – What about in October 2004, when you claimed that a set of national statistics published by the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine showed that Tasmania’s hospitals were being mismanaged? Do you remember that one?
Mrs Napier – Yes.
Mr LENNON – And do you remember what the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine said when they confirmed that the figures did not include any data from Tasmania? Is that the standard that you were referring to when you thought you would put up this motion?
Mrs Napier – This is a very good argument for an ICAC that we are calling for. You should vote for the motion.
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr LENNON – I can understand why the member is chattering away over there, because she has been the worst performer when it comes to parliamentary standards over the past six years in the whole Chamber. That is saying something, because I am going to come to the other member for Bass, Mr Booth, in a minute, who has a pretty good record when it comes to this. He is famous for using parliamentary privilege to accuse a leading Tasmanian businessman of bottom-of-the- harbour tax schemes.
Greens members laughing.
Mr LENNON – I do not find this very funny. I think all members of the Chamber can now observe the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens in a fit of laughter over this.
Mr BOOTH – Point of order, Mr Speaker. The Premier is well aware that I have risen to my feet in the Chamber and explained and requested the Premier not to keep repeating what he claims to be a slander about that particular person, and he has consistently and loudly repeated it many times and is slandering the person himself.
Mr SPEAKER – Order, it is not a point of order. The member will have the opportunity to address the question at a later time.
Mr LENNON – The member should have thought about all this, shouldn’t he? But the member is reckless with parliamentary privilege and that, I think, is a view that even some members of the Liberal Opposition may well agree with. I have sighted correspondence from Mr Serge de Kantzow and he did not believe that –
Mr BOOTH – Point of order, Mr Speaker. Was that after you approached Mr de Kantzow or before?
Opposition and Greens members laughing.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. That is not a point of order.
Mr BOOTH – Are you the author of it?
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr LENNON – Let us get that on the record. The member is asserting that I was the author of the letter that Mr Serge de Kantzow wrote. The member digs a deep hole for himself.
Mr Whiteley – When you’re in that hole, there’s no room in it.
Mr BOOTH – Point of order, Mr Speaker. The Premier is clearly misrepresenting what I said and that is unparliamentary because he is impugning –
Mr SPEAKER – Order. It is not a point of order.
Mr BOOTH – Mr Speaker, may I be allowed to finish the point of order?
Mr SPEAKER – No, you will get your opportunity later.
Mr BOOTH – Mr Speaker, it is unparliamentary –
Mr SPEAKER – Order, I ask the member to resume his seat. The member will get an opportunity later; it is not a point of order. You cannot just keep getting up and interrupting other members’ speeches. You will get the opportunity to respond.
Mr LENNON – The reason we are seeing point of order after point of order and interjection after interjection is that the members Opposite know that what I am saying is right. There has been blatant misuse by members of the opposition parties of the forms of the Parliament.
Mrs Napier – No, that is offensive.
Mr LENNON – I can go on and on. I have many other instances here; don’t worry about that. I have a folder full of them. It is not a laughing matter, member for Denison, Mr Hodgman.
Mr Michael Hodgman – We are laughing at you.
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr Will Hodgman – What else have you got in there?
Mr LENNON – Do you want me to go through it all?
Opposition members interjecting.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. I have warned and warned. I will give one final warning. The Premier is entitled to produce his argument and convey it to the House without constant interruptions and I ask that he be given that courtesy.
Mr LENNON – Thank you, Mr Speaker. What I have documented here are the various abuses of Parliament that have been undertaken by members of the Green and Liberal oppositions. It is a sad reflection that there is so much in it.
Mr BOOTH – Point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order goes to relevance. The debate is about an ICAC and what the Premier is doing has nothing to do with that.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. That is the second or third time that has been raised. The ICAC debate has finished. We have moved onto the standards.
Mrs Napier – That is ICAC as well.
Mr SPEAKER – Members are entitled to develop an argument that is generally around parliamentary performance, parliamentary standards and ICAC. At the end of the day each person has a different way of expressing themselves.
Mr LENNON – Mr Speaker, I do invite the member to read motion 175 and inform himself.
Mrs Napier – Part 2 is about ICAC.
Mr LENNON – I did not say it wasn’t? What does part (1) say, or part (3) and all the rest? The Leader of the Opposition confined his comments and invited me to do the same on that aspect of his motion, which was not complementary to the motion previously determined by the House. It would be improper to reflect on a decision of the House that has already been taken. We are confining our comments, I thought, to that part of the motion.
I can understand why the member for Bass, Mr Booth, is embarrassed, because he has been guilty of misusing this Chamber in a way, I think, no other member has in recent times. Perhaps that is the standard that the Leader of the Liberal Opposition was referring to when he brought this debate on. Perhaps he was referring to the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, who has been forced to make a number of embarrassing backdowns, having previously accused a former minister of the Chamber, Peter Rae. Remember that accusation? It is no good shaking your head.
Ms PUTT – I will take a point of order, then. We are obviously going to get a litany of half truths about my past actions, so I will just put it on the record that it is a litany of half truths.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. That is not a point of order. The member will have an opportunity if there is enough time left.
Mr LENNON – Mr Speaker, I think members would recall that the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Ms Putt, made a terrible allegation against a former minister in the House, Peter Rae, and then had to make an embarrassing apology on Southern Cross television. I think the House would recall the member making accusations against another member of the House, which proved to be false. She even went to the point of moving no-confidence in that member of the House, only to have it embarrassingly withdrawn when the allegations were proved false. Is that the behaviour that you are referring to with regard to parliamentary standards?
Mr Whiteley – What else is in there?
Mr LENNON – As I said right from the outset, I would quite agree with the honourable member who moves the motion that there has not been public scrutiny to the extent that there should be of the behaviour of opposition members, who have consistently abused their responsibilities as members of Parliament.
Greens members laughing.
Mr LENNON – I have been around here long enough to know what the timing of these motions is all about. I find the timing quite disgusting, frankly. That is how the wider community will judge it as well. The wider community understands that all members of our society are entitled to be dealt with fairly under the law, not to have their case judged in here by people who are politically motivated. Of course that is the reason for the timing.
Greens members laughing.
Mr LENNON – Again, it brings howls of laughter from the Greens benches, particularly from the member for Bass, Mr Booth, who has no respect for proper process. Just look at the way he used jockey Kevin Ring for his own political motivation in this Chamber if you want further evidence of his behaviour.
Mr BOOTH – Point of order. That is a deliberate falsehood by the Premier. It is simply untrue. Kevin Ring provided the document and I have not misused anyone.
Mr SPEAKER – It is not a point of order.
Mr BEST – On the point of order, can I just refer you to standing order 182 where it refers to ‘(a) persistently and wilfully obstructed the business of the House’.
Mrs NAPIER – On the point of order, Mr Speaker, can I draw your attention to standing order 171, where anyone can object to offensive words against a member.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. The honourable Premier will continue.
Mr Whiteley – Her number is bigger than your number.
Mr LENNON – I reckon that interjection was pretty unhelpful for the honourable member for Bass. The complaints from the honourable member for Bass, Mr Booth, were blown out of the water by Kevin Ring himself when he went public to expose the motives of the member for Bass, Mr Booth, in respect to that. As I say, when it comes to parliamentary standards you do not look to the member or Bass for guidance.
Mr BOOTH – Point of order. Mr Ring said that the words that Mr Cox had used about rolling over for Betfair for $1 million were true.
Mr SPEAKER – You will have plenty of opportunity to respond if there is enough time.
Mr LENNON – Mr Speaker, there is a sad reflection here on abuse of parliamentary privilege and of process by members of both opposition parties. That brings me to the motion itself and the timing of it. We have observed what goes on here for some considerable time. What happens is that the honourable Leader of the Tasmanian Greens develops the parliamentary strategy and gives notice of it on Monday. Then at the Parliamentary Liberal Party’s meeting some time on Monday afternoon they try to one-up. It must become increasingly frustrating for the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Ms Putt, to watch her parliamentary strategies being pinched by the Liberal Opposition.
This week is a sad reflection on abuse of process, with both opposition parties rushing into the Chamber to bring this motion on because they understand the importance of the timing. It has erosion of the presumption of innocence attached to it. This enables these people to throw words around the Chamber willy- nilly on another debate because they know they will be reported in connection with the matters that the DPP made public last week. That is why this is being done. All that people need to do is look at the questions that the leader of the Liberal Opposition authorised the Member for Denison, Mr Hodgman, to ask on Tuesday and to connect that with bringing on this motion today. This is deliberate timing. I will not have this parliament, and I know the people of Tasmania would not want this either, turned into a kangaroo court by the two opposition parties clamouring to get a better headline from each other. That is what this is about; one opposition party trying to get more media than the other one. We know it. They come in week in, week out, with the same strategy. Thank goodness the Tasmanian public on March 18 did not elect them to form government together. Imagine where we would be today. As we can all see, it is unravelling here in front of us this afternoon.
Mr McKim interjecting.
Mr LENNON – You don’t need to point to me; your intellectual arrogance has no impression on me whatsoever. Mr Speaker, the member often leaps to his feet in this chamber to present himself as some sort of intellectual giant over and above the rest of us. Well, I do not have your university training, maybe not –
Mr McKim – I do not have a degree.
Mr LENNON – You don’t need to point at me and you don’t need to lecture me.
Mr Whiteley – You are being done over by someone with no qualifications.
Opposition members laughing.
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr McKIM – On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I think the Premier has just bestowed an honorary doctorate upon me, and for that I thank him.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. It is not a point of order.
Opposition members laughing.
Mr LENNON – I will never bestow an honorary doctorate on the Member for Braddon, Mr Whiteley, that is for sure, the man who has the distinction of talking turkey. We are at the point, sadly, in public life in Tasmania where we have the two opposition parties using the forms of the House in a way that has one conclusion – to erode the presumption of innocence.
Mr Booth – I think you have seriously lost it.
Mr LENNON – Pardon?
Mr Booth – I think you have seriously lost it. You have lost control.
Mr Whiteley – You have got post-traumatic stress; that is your problem. You are going to go home and cry.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. Look, this is what I talked about regarding personal reflections. I have warned you. I must ask you not to interject in the House. Please enable the Premier to continue his address and then others will get an opportunity. If you start reflecting on each other personally then I will have no hesitation, as I said, in using the standing orders.
Mr LENNON – Thank you, Mr Speaker. The other connection I wanted to make this afternoon is that this sort of behaviour started during the lead-up to the election campaign. I put up with a fair bit during the election campaign and so did my family; I no longer intend to put up with it. Members, particularly members of the Liberal Opposition, might remind themselves of what they said in their official election broadcasts during the State election campaign before they keep interjecting. You might like to remind yourselves and then come back and reflect on the language you have been using in this Chamber under the cover of parliamentary privilege and make the connection between the two, because I no longer intend to put up with it.
Mr Whiteley – So you’ll go out and let your minister do it. You’ll go over and let your ministers do over our members, won’t you?
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr Whiteley – People’s deceased parents.
Mr LENNON – I suggest you go and have a look at the authorised official broadcasts.
Mr Whiteley – Terrific – you’re a hypocrite.
Mr SPEAKER – Order! I warned the honourable member; I now name the honourable member for Braddon, Mr Whiteley.
Motion by Mr Llewellyn agreed to –
That the member be suspended from the Chamber for 24 hours.
Mr Whiteley withdrew.
Mr LENNON – Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I say, I have put up with a fair bit over the past nine to twelve months, and it all started in the lead-up to the State election campaign. I have respectfully requested that the members of the Liberal Opposition remind themselves of what was put in the official election broadcasts and authorised by the Liberal Party during the State election campaign, and then reflect on what they have been throwing around this Chamber willy-nilly like confetti. Frankly, I have had enough.
Mrs Napier – Tell your own ministers that.
Mr LENNON – It is a reflection on what the members opposite – and it is the Liberal Opposition I refer to here – will do when they make a deliberate connection. They are coached in this regard by the member for Denison, Mr Hodgman. I understand the political motivation of this motion before the House today. There are forms of the House available for standards and for members’ accountability to be tested where warranted, but that is not what this is about at all. The timing of this motion today, as I have already noted, is deliberate. It is lamentable that members would use this Parliament in the way that they have this week and not let due process take its natural course.
As I noted for the record, if the member for Denison, Mr Hodgman, who I think is the leading architect of this on the Liberal side, was representing one of the people that the DPP has charged, he would be yelling from the rooftops – and quite rightly – his disgust at the Parliament being used in the way it has been used this week. But of course he is not doing that now because he is using the Parliament for what he thinks is his political benefit, with no regard whatsoever for the injury that that might do to other people who have no opportunity to use the Parliament in the way the member does. He has carefully constructed his questions, no doubt about that, but the purpose has been obvious.
I do note for the record in this regard that the Tasmanian Greens have not been a participant in that. I respect that, but the same cannot be said for the member for Denison, Mr Hodgman.
Mr Michael Hodgman – I don’t know what you’re on about; you’ve lost the plot.
Mr LENNON – Oh, no I haven’t; I know exactly what you are up to.
Mr MICHAEL HODGMAN – Point of order, Mr Speaker. I have never squealed in the entire time I have been in Parliament. If the Premier wants to attack me, let him move a substantive motion and let us have a proper debate. This is a debate about proper governance and high standards, and the Premier’s own speech will be his own indictment.
Mr SPEAKER – It is not a point of order. The honourable member hopefully will have enough time before the debate finishes. I do remind the House that the debate is scheduled to finish at 5.30 p.m.
Mr MICHAEL HODGMAN – The Premier is filibustering – guilty.
Mr LENNON – Pardon?
Mr MICHAEL HODGMAN – Guilty.
Mr LENNON – Of what?
Mr Michael Hodgman – Filibustering.
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr LENNON – No wonder you have been a backbencher for most of your political life.
Mr Speaker, I will resume my seat in a minute to allow the member for Denison, the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, to participate in the debate. As I say, on this side of the House we can see the timing of these motions, and frankly, it is lamentable, it is disgusting, it is sad. It is a reflection on you, it is a reflection on how you use the Parliament and it is a reflection on how far you are prepared to go to interfere with proper process. It is saddening, really. Make no mistake about this; it will in time be reflected upon poorly. The Liberal Party as an institution in this State will suffer as a result of that, but that is a matter for them.
We will not be supporting this motion. We do though, as I have said on many occasions now, require – as I hope all members of the House do – an adherence to the Standing Orders and to proper process and behaviour within the forum of the Parliament. I do not know why it is that the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens continues to defend the member for Denison, Mr Hodgman. After all, it was the Leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Ms Putt, who bore the brunt of most of your invective from 1992 through to 1996 when you used to sit over there in the corner. The member can explain that for herself but we will not be supporting the motion. We can see the motive behind it from the point of the Liberal Opposition and that is a sad reflection on the Liberal Party. It is a sad reflection indeed on the leadership of the Liberal Party in this State, and hopefully we will see a change of attitude from this day on.
Mr Michael Hodgman – And a change of government – you’re on your way out!
Ms PUTT (Denison – Leader of the Greens) – Mr Speaker, as I listened to the Premier lay down one after another instance in which he claims parliamentary standards and privilege have been abused, I thought that he must be supporting the motion because, after all, the motion calls for the establishment of a parliamentary standards commissioner with responsibilities including the monitoring of parliamentary standards and receiving and investigating complaints regarding parliamentary accountability, ministerial responsibility and adherence to the ministerial code of conduct and other related matters. So here we get from the Premier – who clearly is a little confused – a complete run-down in argument as to exactly why we would need a parliamentary standards commissioner.
Now, on our side of the House we have complaints about the way the Government behaves. Apparently on their side of the House they have complaints about the way members in the two opposition parties complain. What better concurrence of view could there be? Surely the case has been made, so I find it extraordinary that having given this litany of alleged offences, the Premier then says he does not actually want to do anything about it. A curious situation, is it not?
He then goes on to show that not only is he confused – apparently he has an enormous blind spot – but then demonstrates the most extraordinary degree of paranoia – and I put it on the record that at this point he has got up and left the Chamber.
Mr Michael Hodgman – If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!
Mr SPEAKER – Order. I ask the honourable member for Denison to give the Leader of the Greens an opportunity to continue without interruption.
Ms PUTT – Perhaps the logical contradiction was a little too much. Then he gets to this rather paranoid assertion that this motion is before us today because of some incredible plot which has been orchestrated allegedly, somehow, between the Liberal Party and the Greens. Nothing could be further from the truth. He somehow thinks it is trying to drag the Government down and cast aspersions on them. I thought the Government had done a pretty good job of dragging itself down all of its own accord; it hardly needed our help. What we are trying to do is deal with the wash-up.
The call for parliamentary accountability to be renewed has gone out around Australia. It is not something that was cooked up by opposition parties in this Parliament, and any member of parliament who read their e-mails would know that. I would have thought that the Premier would have read with interest the paper from the Australasian Study of Parliament Group about why accountability must be renewed. I would have also thought that the Attorney-General, the Leader of Government Business in the House, the other ministers and government members would have read it, just as we did when it was circulated to all members of parliament in Australia for consideration and comment.
These very important issues in relation to parliamentary accountability are being canvassed and the need for reform is gathering apace, not just here but in the other States and Territories and at the Commonwealth level. In fact, in the context of the Victorian election being called, the group that was responsible for writing this paper, led by Dr Ken Coghill and others in Victoria – and he is at the Department of Management at Monash University, for your edification – have come out with a statement and a challenge to all the people contesting the Victorian election. It is that they commit to the elevated standards of accountability and the reforms that are canvassed in this paper as they ask to be elected and present themselves to the electors of Victoria. It is a shame the Premier is not here to hear about these developments.
There is a proposal to the Working Arrangements of the Parliament Committee that a parliamentary standards commissioner be established. This very interesting paper on parliamentary accountability says:
‘Australian citizens are increasingly denied effective democratic control over action taken on their behalf by governments of all political persuasions at Commonwealth, State and Territory levels.’
It goes on:
‘Ministerial accountability fails as governments seize and hold political advantage, putting partisan interests ahead of the democratic rights of citizens and their entitlement to be treated with integrity, dignity and respect.’
It goes on to talk about the problem of ministers claiming that they cannot be held personally responsible for the acts and omissions of others who are involved in the administration of their portfolios and that they effectively deny personal responsibility. It goes on to make the very clear statement that bad government is the inevitable result of lack of accountability and that fertile ground is prepared for corruption. They make observations about evasion of freedom of information requests and then come to a point which has become a fixation in this Parliament and which has been of great note over the four weeks during which we tried to drag out of the Government the truth of the TCC affair. This is now being commented on in relation to the performance in question time yesterday and this morning. This is what the paper says in its summary, and I quote:
‘Many ministers can evade answering parliamentary questions, and make a mockery of question time. They use debating artifices to at best ignore the question and at worst to turn requests for information into abusive partisan attacks on political opponents.’
That precisely describes the performance of ministers in this Parliament in question time.
The paper goes on to canvass a range of reforms. Amongst others, they say that what we need to decide is that –
‘ministers are answerable for all acts and omissions of persons and organisations acting under prerogative, legislative or contractual authority assigned to them’
ministers should be held personally culpable for their own acts and omissions and for those of”
their heads of department and their personal staff, and
others in which they have participated or of which they were aware or should have been aware’.
It says –
‘In determining whether a minister is personally culpable, ignorance of a matter does not excuse the acts of omissions of a minister where the minister should have known or should have ensured the matter was drawn to the minister’s personal attention. Without limiting the circumstances in which ministers should have known of any matter, they are deemed to have the knowledge of their heads of department and others who report directly to them and all members of their personal staff’.
Also, it goes on to say that –
‘In discharging their responsibilities, ministers should be obliged to respond to any questions or other matters raised in Parliament by:
redirecting the question to the relevant minister;
providing all relevant information;
providing full explanations;
taking any necessary remedial action;
accepting personal culpability; or
as appropriate according to the circumstances of the case’.
I begin to get an understanding of why the Premier may have voted against the motion. It says –
‘Ministers shall provide answers to parliamentary questions which are direct and relevant’.
When I brought this up today and quoted from another section of the report, as a motion that I put on the books before question time, the ministers erupted into hilarious laughter when I said, quoting from this paper, that in fully answering a question a minister must be directly responsive, relevant, succinct and limited to the subject matter of the question. They thought it was a joke.
It is a serious proposition in this paper, which also goes on to say that what we need to do is to crack down on evasion and diversion during answers to questions, but this government has made it an art form. The Premier has made it an art form. He did it in relation to the previous motion on an ICAC. He did it during this motion. He does it during question time and he actively encourages a culture amongst his ministers to do the same. It is simply not good enough.
The paper also recommends the establishment of a parliamentary standards commissioner. I think the previous speaker from the Liberal Party, the mover of the motion, actually went on to describe what a parliamentary standards commissioner does. For the edification of the Premier, who is not here, and the rest of his government, there is such a thing as a parliamentary commissioner for standards in the UK. The commissioner’s main responsibility is overseeing the maintenance and monitoring of the operation of the register of members’ interests; providing advice on a confidential basis to individual members and to the select committee on standards and privileges about the interpretation of the code of conduct and about the guide to the rules relating to the conduct of members; preparing guidance and providing training for members on matters of conduct, propriety and ethics, something that you would think from the Premier’s contribution he would be crying out for; monitoring the operation of the code of conduct and the guide to rules and, where appropriate, proposing possible modifications to it to the committee; receiving and investigating complaints about members who are allegedly in breach of the code of conduct and guide to the rules, and reporting his findings to the committee.
It sounds like a very worthy thing to be undertaken in this Parliament, and on the arguments that have been put by all sides there is some laxity in standards which we should be addressing. I think that if the Premier is prepared to go through a litany of what he claims to be lax standards, he ought to be prepared to do something about it. And this is what this motion is all about. We have a terrible decline in accountability. In fact, I believe that the Premier is busy pioneering a doctrine of diminished governmental accountability to Parliament. He actively encourages, by his own behaviour, a culture amongst his ministers of evading questions, attacking the questioner in a personal manner and utilising parliamentary privilege to vilify them in answer to questions, and then he turns around and accuses the Opposition parties of what he himself does all the time.
Not only does he do that, but he has in recent weeks refused an initial request from a committee of the Parliament to provide documentation to them, which again calls into question his understanding of the accountability of the Government to the Parliament. He laid down the gauntlet to that committee, challenging them to actually present him with an official order before he was prepared to come up with that document. All the while he argued in public that Parliamentary privilege was apparently under question, and thereby undermined the confidence of witnesses to come forward to at least two parliamentary committees that are currently sitting. He actively went out and undermined the confidence of witnesses to come to committees. Now, if that is not undermining the accountability mechanisms and the transparency and openness and the work of this Parliament, I do not know what is.
He persists in claiming that he has got some sort of advice that the foundations on which we think we operate in this place are under question and that therefore in some ways the Government does not necessarily have to be accountable as was always believed to be the case. We at a pretty serious juncture in relation to accountability needing to be reinforced and renewed. That is what this motion essentially seeks to do. It points out that the Lennon Government has not delivered proper standards of accountability, transparency, responsibility and good governance that the Tasmanian people can rightly expect from their elected representatives and then goes on to propose measures that would rectify that.
Now, if the Government was doing everything right, had nothing to hide and nothing to fear, why would they not go ahead with it? If the behaviour is as bad the Premier says, why does he not want a parliamentary standards commissioner? There is no logic in the Government’s position. All there is is defensiveness, because they are the ones that are actively undermining parliamentary standards. When they undermine accountability they undermine the democratic process, because we are here to examine what they are doing and to get answers on behalf of the electors of Tasmania, not for our own personal satisfaction.
We saw a minister mislead Parliament. We knew that had happened; it was quite apparent and the Premier did nothing about it. There was no enforcement of the code of conduct. When you look at the code of conduct it does not have anything in it about the succinct and direct answers that actually give the information that is sought, or the other matters that are proposed in these reforms. This code of conduct has been observed in the breach, but it is not good enough anyway. We need the parliamentary standards commissioner; we need an upgrade to our standing orders as well. What we desperately need is a Government that will be prepared to commit to the renewal of accountability in Tasmania.
Mr GUTWEIN (Bass) – Mr Speaker, in the short time that I have available I would just like to add a couple of comments to this debate. Firstly, I was surprised that the Premier made the case today for the very motion that we are discussing. He made the case, albeit by attempting to besmirch the reputations of members on this side. However, what he did that was really interesting was that he walked into this Parliament with a file under his arm – the dirt file. I refer members of the House to a press release which was put out by Michael Aird, Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, on 7 March this year. He said it was beyond belief that the Greens were accusing Labor of having a dirt unit to peddle suspect information.
Mr McKim – I finally rest my case!
Mr Michael Hodgman – They’ve got 60 pages on me!
Mr GUTWEIN – If a dirt unit does not exist, where on earth did the file come from? It is quite extraordinary. I think members on this side of the House – and I suspect a number on the government side of the House – would be astounded today at the behaviour of the Premier. On one hand he speaks about personal vilification in respect to his family but on the other it is quite alright for him at the end of question time today to vilify Mr Hodgman in the most disgraceful way, not in relation to his performance as a parliamentarian but in respect of his performance in his previous profession as a lawyer. It is quite disgraceful that the Premier would do that. On one had he says, ‘Don’t do it to me’, yet on the other by his very actions, he says, ‘It’s okay for me to do it to others’.
As this debate is about transparency and accountability, the Premier should be explaining very clearly what Mr Aird was on about when he denied the existence of a dirt unit. Quite frankly, by his actions today the Premier has demonstrated that either Mr Aird was wrong or that he was attempting to mislead the Tasmanian people, or that there is a dirt unit – because there is a dirt file; we know that for a fact. If members of parliament were allowed to use cameras in this place we would have photographic evidence of it. I think what is interesting is that the media that were here today saw the dirt file with their own eyes.
Mr McKim – The dirt file comes out.
Mr Sturges interjecting.
Mr SPEAKER – Order. I warn the member for Denison, Mr Sturges.
Mr GUTWEIN – The Deputy Premier himself confirms that the dirt file exists. Check the Hansard. It is a fact that the dirt file exists.
Mr SPEAKER – Order.
Mr GUTWEIN – The member for Denison takes such umbrage because the Government has been caught out today.
The House divided –
Mr Booth (Teller)
Mr Michael Hodgman
Mr Will Hodgman
Ms Singh (Teller)
Motion so negatived.