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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4214

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (09:05): Speaker, I would just briefly respond as chair of the committee that made the two recommendations to you.

I understand what you have said, Speaker, in terms of the committee's report not being impugned by the release of information during the draft stage, and the committee is aware of the apology that has been given by one of its members and understands the circumstances in which the breach may well have occurred in an inadvertent sense. The issue, though, still revolves around the media's misuse of the rules, and in this particular case—and, in fact, upon his own admission—the journalist has actually admitted that he knew what the rules were and had decided that in view of his readership et cetera, and the issue of fly-in fly-out and the importance of that issue in Western Australia, essentially to ignore those rules and go to print.

I do understand the position that you are placed in, and I recognise that the Father of the House and others are here, who were involved with the Privileges Committee. Having been on the committee as well and looked at a similar issue in relation to another journalist in the not-too-distant past, I do understand that there are significant issues here of actually getting something through the Privileges Committee in terms of contempt at the journalistic level. But the one thing that I would say is that we are seeing too many examples of this. I understand that with this current parliament coming to its conclusion it would be almost impossible to get a resolution through the Privileges Committee in that time—and who knows what will happen after 14 September? But I think that the media really need to recognise that they cannot operate not only in contempt of privileges but in contempt of the rules that they understand to be there. I think that the parliament—and there have been various recommendations in the past on this that have essentially been ignored by the parliament—needs to look very closely at what this issue is about and how these circumstances can be avoided in the future.

I will not get into the significance of those reports, but I would ask you, Speaker, if in fact the due processes could be put in place where we revisit some of the recommendations of the past, look at how we can make sure that we do have the freedom of the press and, in this case, I agree with your comment that I do not think the breach has in fact impacted on the report at all. It was a breach at the draft stage so there would be some argument if it did in fact go to the Privileges Committee that they would not make a finding against. I think the very important fact still remains that we need to address this issue.

Some of the recommendations that have been made in the past go part way to doing that. The parliament itself has not been of a mind to do something and we get this continual referral to the Privileges Committee to do something, and the privileges committee does very little. I am not being critical of that committee—it is the way that processes have worked.

The journalists have wised up to the arrangement and they are, in fact, thumbing their noses at the parliament and the various privileges that they and we have. It is something that does need to be addressed. The journalists themselves are well aware—the senior journalists in this parliament—of the rules. I know there are some briefings that take place from time to time. It is beholden on them to educate the younger ones as to what the rules are about.

In conclusion, Speaker, the committee accepts your finding not to make a recommendation to go to the Privileges Committee, but I would ask that you do whatever is in your power to make sure that this issue has further airing, both within the House and within the media circles.

The SPEAKER: I thank the member for New England for his constructive comments and for the way the committee conducted itself during its inquiry.