House debates

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Public Works Committee; Report

5:10 pm

Photo of Roger PriceRoger Price (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, I present the committee’s report entitled Unauthorised disclosure of committee proceedings and evidence.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

by leave—Yesterday, I advised the House of a possible breach of privilege concerning the Public Works Committee. I informed members that the committee would conduct its own inquiries and then report its findings to both chambers. As I described yesterday, an article in the Townsville Bulletin of 5 February contained information provided to the Public Works Committee at a confidential briefing by the Department of Defence. The journalist attributed his source as the honourable member for Herbert, a member of the committee. At meetings yesterday and today, the committee confirmed that the member for Herbert was the source of the information. In fact, the member for Herbert has written to his fellow members of the committee acknowledging that he had spoken to the journalist in question and apologising.

The committee considered whether the release had led to a potential or a substantial interference with the work of the committee. The committee was particularly concerned that the information had been given to the committee at a meeting which had been explicitly acknowledged by all parties as being confidential. In order to fulfil its statutory responsibilities, the committee needs to be able to discuss commercially sensitive matters, financial options and tendering processes in a frank and open manner with government agencies. In the committee’s opinion, the action by the member for Herbert has eroded the trust that the committee has built with agencies and the Department of Defence in particular.

The committee believes that Mr Lindsay made a serious error of judgment in disclosing details of a confidential Defence briefing given to the committee. It should be noted that Mr Lindsay readily acknowledged his error; unreservedly apologised to the committee, to the Department of Defence and to the parliament; has given longstanding service to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works; and has given an undertaking about his future conduct. The full extent of the consequences of this event will only become apparent in the future. Nonetheless, the committee concludes that the unauthorised release of this information may substantially interfere with the future work of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. Mr Speaker, the committee asks you to examine and consider the report.

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Chief Government Whip. I will consider the report and I will report back to the House at the earliest time that I am able.