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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2106

Mr SCIACCA (5:00 PM) —by leave—I rise as a member, until recently, of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I do not want to add to the comments that have already been made in this House by my friends the member for Lowe and the member for Denison. We, as Labor Party members, resigned from this committee last week on receiving the permission of the parliament to do so. It was not a step that we particularly wanted to take.

The chairperson of the committee, the honourable member for Mackellar, is someone I actually quite like; I think she is a very nice person. Outside of the political game she is terrific. But from the beginning the Labor Party members of the committee came up with the realisation that, in terms of her political stance, the member for Mackellar was going to use this committee for the purpose of doing as much personal grandstanding as she could in relation to some of the matters that were referred to it. I say that with a great deal of regret, because as I understand it this committee has in the past, under a number of chairpersons, been a model committee. I would love to be able to stand here today and say what my friend the honourable member for Sydney said with respect to the Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Audit. She lauded the work of Mr Charles, the chairman of that committee.

I do not want to go overboard, but the Labor Party members of the committee have not seen the second volume of the committee's report. We have certainly seen the first volume, which, I must say, has a lot to commend it. Recommendation No. 1 is the recommendation with which we agree the most:

The committee recommends that the inquiry into crime in the community: victims, offenders and fear of crime be re-referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in the 41st parliament.

I would ask our colleagues opposite and those on this side who might be members of that committee to ensure that they select a chairperson who is going to conduct the hearings in a bipartisan manner. The matters that were brought before the committee were of great substance. I believe that this report could have achieved a lot more in terms of real value to the community, because crime in the community and fear of crime in the community are extraordinarily important issues to people in this country.

The four Labor members who have resigned have had nothing whatsoever to do with the second volume of the committee's report. As I say, I have not seen it. It does not surprise me that it was all kept very secret. I understand that the honourable member for Mackellar certainly was not prepared to give us a look at the chairman's draft, because I think she knew what we would think of it. The reality is this: for her to use a committee of this parliament in a quest to get television news coverage and all the rest of it in trying to blame state governments—which at the moment happen to be all of Labor persuasion—I think is quite out of order. It is not in the spirit of what parliamentary committees are about. I feel very disappointed and embarrassed, actually, for the honourable member for Mackellar.

The reality is that the Heiner affair and Mr Heiner were first commissioned by the then Borbidge National Party government in Queensland. When these documents were shredded, they were shredded on advice given by the Solicitor-General. There have been something like three or four different inquiries into the so-called Heiner affair, which most people have accepted. Mr Lindeberg, who was the major whistleblower, is someone whom I know very well and whom I have known for some years; he is a constituent of mine. I appreciate that he is genuinely concerned and that he is, if you like, fixated on this particular issue. But in the end I think that putting these sorts of things in a report, giving him the sort of support that the member for Mackellar has given him, giving support to some of the matters that were raised and trying to blame governments and ministers is highly ridiculous.

I place on record that the observations in that report do not have any credibility so far as we are concerned, because we were not even consulted about them. I do not know whether the honourable member for Lowe has seen the report yet. The reality is that it lacks credibility in the sense that it is not bipartisan. We did not agree with it. We have not even put it in a dissenting report—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —He resigned.

Mr SCIACCA —Exactly. We have not even put in a dissenting report, because the chairperson of the committee kept the report pretty secret and would not even let us have a look at the chairperson's draft. In any event, this was a good inquiry in many respects. If it had not been for the chairperson, it would have been a terrific inquiry. I particularly thank the people in the committee secretariat. They have done an enormous job under very difficult circumstances. The Labor Party members of this committee had to walk out on the first day because committee members were trying to crunch numbers on us—on the first day. We had problems with this committee on the first day. It ended with us unfortunately having to resign—something which we did not want to do. So, whilst I commend most of what is in volume 1 of the report, I cannot commend what is in volume 2, because we have not seen it.

This would have been a terrific committee—this would have been something which I think we could have nutted out—if only the honourable member for Mackellar had not decided to do what she did. With great respect to her, we know what she is like: she uses these sorts of things all the time for media self-aggrandisement. I think that is unfortunate. Having said that, I hold no particular bitterness towards her because, as I said, I actually quite like her, but I hope that the next committee is chaired by somebody other than the honourable member for Mackellar and that she moves on to something else. That is as far as I can take the matter. I thank the House.