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Bush healing FOI case heats up

By johnboy - 16 June 2009 4

In the PR world it’s often considered important to, from time to time, let slurs slide, because making a big deal out of them draws more attention to them.

A classic case study is now being constructed in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

For those who came in late:

1. Back in March Katy Gallagher announced a site for a “bush healing farm” essentially a drying out facility for the indigenous community.

2. Then at the end of May the Liberals’ Jeremy Hanson was able to compare an FOI release on the subject with an original and discover that in an objection to the siting of the facility neighbours had noted that they planned to sell wine, something the FOI censor had chosen to remove.

There are interminable arguments to be had as to whether this could be a legitimate exercise of the FOI guidelines, a politically sensitive interpretation of the guidelines, or simply following the guidelines to previously laid down sensitive interpretations.

3. Last week the Chief Executive of ACT Health Mark Cormack, perhaps unwisely, tried to demand the Liberals’ Jeremy Hanson retract his statement.

The ABC informs us that the Greens and Liberals have today started a privileges committee investigation into both Jeremy Hanson’s statements and the propriety of senior public servants issuing instructions to members of the Legislative Assembly.

At this point things seem to have turned ugly in the Legislative Assembly.

Zed Seselja is jumping up and down about Simon Corbell (elevated by Zed to the status of “factional warrior”) having a spray at the speaker of the Assembly, the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury.

    The Speaker formed the opinion based on standing orders to allow debate to proceed on the forming of a special Select Committee to investigate the possible breach of privilege.

    “Mr Corbell went as far as saying the Speaker made his decision based on partisan views, not based on advice given to him as the Speaker.

    “By dissenting against the Speaker’s decision, Mr Corbell accused the Speaker of bias and this is the most malicious and venomous attack a Member can make against the Speaker’s position.

Zed goes on to dare Simon to bring on a confidence motion in the speaker.

It gets better with Katy Gallagher getting on her high horse:

    “This is grubby politics from an arrogant, disrespectful and desperate Opposition who is so misguided it believes that sledging a public servant is a legitimate way to attack the Government,” Ms Gallagher said.

    “Today’s motion by Liberal MLA Jeremy Hanson seeking to refer to the Privileges Committee an alleged breach by a senior ACT Health public servant simply for writing to Mr Hanson to correct the record, is disgraceful.”

We can only hope they all have something to eat and a nap over lunch and return in a better temper.

But some good may come out of it if the texta wielders now lean against applying the black lines so as to avoid this sort of mess.

What’s Your opinion?


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4 Responses to
Bush healing FOI case heats up
YapYapYap 2:20 am 17 Jun 09

This also pops out of the Committee report:

6.92 ……that the Select Committee also investigate the
broader issues of protection of communications made by Members of the
Legislative Assembly in the course of their employment.

6.94 (b) that the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure
inquire into and report on the protections available to Members concerning
protection of communications made by Members of the Legislative
Assembly in the course of their employment.

This ipmlies is that beyond the current protections given to MLAs; parliamentary privilege, a further extension of that privilege should be considered. Perhaps something retrospective to protect Hansen’s assets?

Those protections already exist.

Parliamentary privilage has lead to parliamnets being referred to “the cowards’ chamber”. We shouldn’t consider extending those protections. Publish and be damned, I say.

YapYapYap 1:50 am 17 Jun 09

PS For the benefit of readers (and the moderator) I should stress that both ‘misrepresentations’ are obviously only alleged to have occurred. Whew; hate to lose my military pension!

YapYapYap 1:46 am 17 Jun 09

This makes interesting reading. It’s from the Estimates Committee report released yesterday:

RECOMMEND A T I O N 3 4
4.55 The Committee recommends that the Chief Minister, Mr Jon
Stanhope MLA, correct the record concerning his misrepresentation of the
letter that the Committee wrote to the Deputy Chief Executive of Business
and Projects, Mr Dawes, on 27 May 2009.

What a contrast; Stanhope’s misrepresentation requires correction, whereas Hansen’s misrepresentation leads to a public servant being dragged before a privileges committee, presumably for the public servant to explain why, to the best of his understanding, Hansen did what he did.

Now a smarter politician than Hansen (no great challenge) would’ve used the parliamentary privilege attached to the Committee process to go after the public servant. Publishing it, as he did, without privilege places him fair and square in Mr Cormack’s lawyer’s sights.

Cormack before the Committee: “…it’s a tissue of lies…”

Hansen before the ACT Supreme Court: “…..please don’t take my military pension….”

housebound 9:06 pm 16 Jun 09

You couldn’t make this stuff up. And if you did, the publisher would market it as fantasy.

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