Wednesday, 23 November 2011
On Tuesday—that is, yesterday—the member for Mackellar raised as a question to me whether certain statements by the Assistant Treasurer in relation to the superannuation guarantee legislation should be referred to the Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests as a possible matter of contempt of the House. This was a follow-up to an earlier matter raised by the member suggesting that the House had been deliberately misled by the Assistant Treasurer in his second reading speech on the superannuation guarantee legislation on 2 November.
On Tuesday, the member for Mackellar submitted that in relation to the superannuation guarantee legislation there were inconsistencies between the minister's second reading speech in the House, a statement on his website and a statement made on a radio program, and that the minister was trying to mislead people.
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. In this case, the member for Mackellar appears to be alleging a misleading of the public more generally.
I have examined material provided by the member for Mackellar in relation to her submission to me, and the Hansard record of the occasions on which the matter has been raised in the House, including the minister's personal explanation on 3 November in response to the claim I referred to earlier.
I think this is another example of where explanations have been caught up in debating points. It would seem that an early resolution of this matter might have been assisted had the minister's personal explanation made to the House on 3 November more carefully reflected upon what had been said in his speech. This could still be rectified by the Assistant Treasurer.
Nevertheless, I would think that the occasion in the House in the early hours of this morning, when the superannuation guarantee legislation was debated and passed by the House, now puts beyond doubt the stated scope of that legislation. The member for Mackellar took that debating opportunity this morning to again make the points she had raised with me. This, I note, is consistent with remarks I have made on other occasions that such differences as these are best pursued by members 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 out such as would cause me to give precedence to a motion to refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests.
May I, on indulgence, thank you for your statement and just ask this simple question. The tabling speech, which is the speech of record and which a court may consider under the Acts Interpretation Act, is still wrong, and I am wondering what mechanisms we have and how that error can be corrected, because, should a court see it, it would be plain wrong.