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The Speaker made the following statement—

On Monday the Member for Dickson raised as a matter of privilege whether the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing had deliberately misled the House in responding to a question from the Member for Banks on 12 May 2011.

The Member for Dickson provided the Hansard of the Minister’s remarks and an extract from the Budget Related Paper “Delivering better hospitals, mental health and health services”.

The Member for Dickson submitted that the Minister’s statements that the two biggest injections of new money in the mental health package are in years one and two and that the new money in year five is just $50 million or about 2 per cent of the total package are contradicted by the Budget’s figures.

Deliberately misleading the House is one of the matters that can be found to be a contempt. While claims that members have deliberately misled the House have been raised as matters of privilege or contempt, no such matter has yet been referred to the Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests.

To establish that contempt has been committed it would need to be established that:

(1)    a statement had in fact been misleading;

(2)    the Member knew at the time the statement was incorrect; and

(3)    the misleading had been deliberate.

In addition, to amount to contempt, the action would need to amount to, or be intended or likely to amount to, an improper interference with the free exercise by the House of its functions.

I have examined the Hansard records on this exchange and the document presented by the Honourable Member for Dickson. The Minister’s answer can be regarded as debating contentions that have been made by the Opposition about funding of mental health. While I note that this is by way of unnecessarily debating an answer, it is nevertheless a matter of a debating point, a dispute about the interpretation of data.

I appreciate that there are different ways in which figures can be interpreted and used. Like Speakers before me, I believe that such differences as these are probably best pursued as debating issues using the various forms of the House available to Members.

For these reasons, on the evidence available to me, it is not clear that a prima facie case has been made such as would cause me to give precedence to a motion to refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests.