The President (Hon Kate Doust) in the chair.
Fifty-eighth Report — “Legal Proceedings by the Attorney General — Authorisation for President to Defend” —
Recommendation 1 — Adoption
Resumed from an earlier stage of the sitting.
Comments and speeches from various members
Hon ALISON XAMON: I am going to make a few brief comments because, as already indicated, I would like to get on with the orders of the day, but I feel as though I could not let the comments of the government pass without any response. The Greens will support recommendation 1 as presented to this house by the Standing Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The comments of the Leader of the House in that statement were quite extraordinary— not in a flattering way, but in quite a problematic way. I am going to remind the government yet again that if it was in opposition, it would be absolutely losing its mind if it were faced with a similar situation.
The one thing I will agree on is that all of this legal action, which the Legislative Council has no choice other than to continue to respond to, is a complete waste of taxpayers’ dollars. I am certainly in complete agreement with that. My response to that is that government members should take that up with the Attorney General and his good mate the State Solicitor, because that is where this whole issue actually lies, if they really want this to stop. This house should not be in the position of having to defend parliamentary privilege. We should not be in this position. I am going to remind people that all we need is for the Corruption and Crime Commission to sit down with the Standing Committee on Procedure and Privileges and come up with an agreement, a process, as has been recommended year after year, for how we can ensure that appropriate documents can be handed over to the CCC in order to ensure that an investigation is not impeded, but that has effectively been put on hold now because of the Attorney General. The Attorney General has put that entire process on hold by engaging in this vanity exercise of incredibly expensive litigation, I think simply for the purpose of trying to make a point that clearly the legislation needs to be changed, which it does not, in order to ensure that the CCC has the power to do whatever it likes with any house of Parliament, without any regard for parliamentary privilege. I suspect that part of the reason for this ill-conceived exercise by the Attorney General is that it will create a situation whereby the case will be lost, and he will then try to come up with some confabulated argument as to why the legislation therefore needs to be changed.
I draw members’ attention in particular to what I think is a very telling provision within these documents. This is on page 30, and particularly clauses 14 and 15 of the original writ. It states —
Prior to complying with the Departmental Production Notices, the Director General sought and obtained legal advice from the State Solicitor’s Office as to whether any other documents which might otherwise be the subject of the Departmental Production Notices were subject to parliamentary privilege.
I want to point out that the first thing that is being acknowledged here is that they went to the State Solicitor to make that determination—not to Parliament, which has the right to determine privilege, but to the State Solicitor. I think the most telling point is clause 15, which states —
The Director General did not include any documents in the Commission Material which he was advised by the State Solicitor’s Office were subject to parliamentary privilege.
There lies the core of this issue, because it was never up to the State Solicitor or his office or the law students who were working there to determine privilege. That is simply the purview of the Parliament.
There has been a lot of chatter about how we are talking about 400 years of case law, as though that is somehow irrelevant. It is not irrelevant; it is core, because we are talking about 400 years of democratic tradition, which the Attorney General is attempting to demolish through this ill-conceived legal action. I do not think this house has any choice other than to continue with this course of action, but there is an easy solution. The easy solution is that the Attorney General immediately withdraw and that we get back to the core business of trying to come up with an agreement with the CCC directly on how we can assist legitimate investigations.
Comments and speeches from various members
Question put and passed.
Resolution reported, and the report adopted.