«THE PRESIDENT (Hon John Cowdell) took the Chair at 4.00 pm, and read prayers. PERTH URBAN RAIL DEVELOPMENT, TABLING OF QUESTIONS AND REFERRAL TO ...»
Wednesday, 12 March 2003
THE PRESIDENT (Hon John Cowdell) took the Chair at 4.00 pm, and read prayers.
PERTH URBAN RAIL DEVELOPMENT, TABLING OF QUESTIONS AND REFERRAL TO STANDING
COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE
Resumed from 6 March on the following motion moved by Hon Peter Foss -
(1) That the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure do - (a) table in the House at the next sitting day three calendar days after the making of this order, full and complete answers to all the questions of which notice was given with respect to the Perth urban rail development proposal for the hearing by the estimates committee for the 2002-03 budget together with all the documents requested by those questions;
(b) attend before the Standing Committee on Public Administration and Finance at its next meeting after such tabling and thereafter and with such other witnesses as directed by that committee in order that the committee may satisfy itself as to the adequacy of such answers and tabling, and on any other matters arising out of those answers or which as a result of its inquiries the standing committee consider appropriate to inquire into.
(2) The standing committee do generally inquire into and maintain parliamentary supervision over the Perth urban rail development and report to the House.
(3) The standing committee do report to the House - (a) with respect to the compliance of the parliamentary secretary with part (1)(a) of this order no later than three sitting days after the making of this order;
(b) with respect to compliance with part (1)(b) of this order, and any other matters related thereto, no later than 3 December 2002; and (c) otherwise, as the committee deems fit from time to time.
HON PETER FOSS (East Metropolitan) [4.05 pm]: I refer those members who like to keep track of matters to pages E865 to E874 of Hansard of 2002, which contain the questions on notice that were asked. That should also refresh members’ memories about the answers we received. I provided to the estimates committee a list of the questions that had not been appropriately answered, and I read that to the House last week. The Department for Planning and Infrastructure refused to answer a number of those. Generally the answer that was given was that the department would not tell us at that time, but that we would find the answer when we received the supplementary master plan.
During the estimates hearing I again asked the department to go through those questions and answer them properly.
That is found in supplementary information No 12 on page E862 of Hansard. A committee of the House asked questions of a witness, who was obliged but refused to answer. The department was again asked to answer those questions. I asked I have made a list of the questions on notice for which information apparently is available but has not been provided. I table that list and ask that the answers to the questions on notice be provided, if the information is available, because this Committee is entitled to answers.
The answer we received was Where questions on notice have sought information or documentation which is not finalised, and/or which is subject to the deliberative processes of government, that draft or preliminary material has not been provided.
That is straight-out defiance The information sought in the questions is generally within the scope of the matters which will be finalised in the Master plan process, so that information based upon the final decisions of the Government will be available to the members when the Master plan is released. It is anticipated that the Master plan will be released by late July 2002.
The original responses to the questions on notice therefore stand.
That is strike two. The department was not content with defying this Parliament and its estimates committee once.
When it was drawn to its attention that the questions were asked by a committee of the Parliament and that it was 5184 [COUNCIL] obliged to answer them, it sent back a supplementary answer that said, “No”. This has shades of Peter Murphy. The department said that it would not provide the answers. The supplementary information continued Some answers refer to the original Master plan produced under the former Government and the documents upon which that Master plan was based. The Parliamentary Secretary will table a copy of such a report, being a paper titled “The Modelling of Patronage Forecast for the South West Metropolitan Railway Master Plan”, prepared by Asymptote Consulting for the original Master plan.
The answer includes a statement that we will receive a document. What worries me is not only did the department refuse to answer the committee once, but also when given a second chance it refused to answer the committee and virtually defied the Parliament. When did something start to happen? It did not start to happen until the Bill came into this House, and I threatened to bring this motion on. We then received some answers. I have two comments to make on those answers tabled by Hon Graham Giffard in November 2002. The first is that many of the questions were still not properly answered. This was the third time they had been asked and they were still not properly answered.
However, the second comment is that mine were not answered at all, which is a bit of an insult. Admittedly, only one of my questions has not been answered, but it was a very vital one. I refer members to the document Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich: I do not know why you are so upset. I never used to get my questions answered, especially not by you.
Hon PETER FOSS: Poor little ladies like Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich, who do not attend during the debate and then try to make a comment, do not understand that in this House there is no obligation on a minister to answer any question. All a minister in this House has is the obligation to stand up in public and say that he or she refuses to answer that question.
It is different when it is a question asked in the Committee of the Whole House. If Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich would like me to repeat my argument Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich interjected.
The PRESIDENT: Order, members! Hon Peter Foss has the call.
Hon PETER FOSS: Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich does not seem to understand, and it is a pity she was not paying attention during the earlier part of this debate, or during the debates we had about Dr Peter Murphy. The difference between these questions and those seeking information in the House is that ministers are not obliged to answer questions. It is their choice as to whether they answer them, but when the Committee puts a question, or this House orders a minister or another person to answer a question, they are obliged to answer. The estimates committee, a Committee of the Whole House, put questions to the department, which the department refused to answer. That is an offence under the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1891. The Committee then put another set of questions, which again the department refused to answer. That is an offence under the Parliamentary Privileges Act. That is the point I made. The fact that Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich must have missed the earlier part of this debate and the entire debate on Dr Peter Murphy is a pity. She should not interject to take me back to the beginning of a very well-argued case to raise matters that are totally irrelevant and wrong. If she paid attention, she would not fall into the trap of showing her ignorance.
As I said, the answers tabled by the parliamentary secretary can be found in tabled paper No 460, which was tabled in this House on 13 November 2002. It should be kept in mind that the estimates committee took place in June. It took from June to November to get any answers, and I did not get any at all at that time. On the following day, 14 November, we received the document promised as supplementary material, which ended up as tabled paper No 474.
Interestingly enough, this paper was prepared in December 1998. How can it take from June to November to table a document that had been promised to a committee, when that document has existed since December 1998? I have a problem with what has been done by this Government, particularly the parliamentary secretary. If this matter had been answered in the estimates committee, the individual who had answered it would have been subject to all the penalties under the Parliamentary Privileges Act covering false answers and, more importantly, could have been asked further questions during the estimates hearings.
Not only did we miss the opportunity for an answer virtually on oath, but we also missed the opportunity to make use of the estimates committee. It is hard enough to get any useful estimates format, but when the committee comes up with a good format, if people are allowed to get away with this, the opportunity to scrutinise the dealings of the Government is lost. That was particularly important, because, in November, the House passed the Bill authorising the public works.
Even if we get the information now, we have lost the opportunity to find out before we authorise that work. I intend to demonstrate that that is a massive contempt, because of the impact of some of the matters now being disclosed by another document tabled by Hon Graham Giffard on 4 March 2003 as tabled paper No 785. We have been strung along by this department and this Government, which has concealed a matter of vital importance to this Parliament in determining, first, whether to grant moneys and, secondly, whether to allow a public work to be built. The first paragraph of part (1) of my motion reads That the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure do a) table in the House at the next sitting day three calendar days after the making of this order, full and complete answers to all the questions of which notice was given with respect to the Perth urban rail [Wednesday, 12 March 2003] 5185 development proposal for the hearing by the estimates committee for the 2002-03 budget together with all the documents requested by those questions;
That order is necessary so that this Government is put on exactly the same requirement for honest disclosure as would apply to any committee. I do not wish this House to be deprived of that right, by continual refusal to answer during the committee proceedings. Unless we get that order, how are we to get the benefit of that honest disclosure? The second paragraph of part (1) of the motion requires the parliamentary secretary to b) attend before the Standing Committee on Public Administration and Finance at its next meeting after such tabling and thereafter and with such other witnesses as directed by that committee in order that the committee may satisfy itself as to the adequacy of such answers and tabling, and on any other matters arising out of those answers or which as a result of its inquiries the standing committee consider appropriate to inquire into.
I will go through some of the questions that will need a bit of probing to see how adequate they are, because some of the answers raise more questions than they answer. This paragraph is necessary to place at least some part of this Parliament in the position it would have been in had those questions been answered prior to estimates, and the committee then had the opportunity to follow up with other questions. This is the minimum measure to enable this Parliament to overcome the contempt of this department in refusing three times to honour its obligations under the rules of the House and the statutes of this State. Part (2) of the motion refers to something the committee would probably do anyway, but it is important that there be a specific reference. It states The standing committee do generally inquire into and maintain parliamentary supervision over the Perth urban rail development and report to the House.
The committee can do that anyway, probably as a self-referral, but it is important that the House now resolves that, if the Government is so dodgy in answering questions, the committee should keep an eye on it. It is a red flag.
Part (3) of my motion states The Standing Committee do report to the House a) with respect to the compliance of the Parliamentary Secretary with part (1)(a) of this order no later than three sitting days after the making of this order; and (b) with respect to compliance with part (1)(b) of this order, and any other matters related thereto, no later than December 3 2002;
That date has obviously passed. I suggest that the end of September 2003 would be sufficient. That would allow plenty of time. It is a reasonable time to give. The final paragraph states c) otherwise, as the Committee deems fit from time to time.
I think it is a very reasonable order. It is saying the Government should do what it is meant to do and do it promptly: to be asked questions in the way it should have been. In the same way that applies to the estimates committee, the committee will tell the House whether the Government has done the job or not. The Standing Committee on Public Administration and Finance will keep an eye on this. I will give more reasons why it should be keeping an eye on this.
As I said earlier, my question was not dealt with. My fourth question was quite important in one particular aspect. All members will recall that the reason for changing from the Kenwick route to the freeway route was increased public patronage. I asked Upon what basis was the view formed that if the Como Route takes 12 minutes less time; this would lead to an increase in passengers on the Mandurah line so as to justify the announcement of the changed route...
We are going back historically. On what basis was the announcement made? The announcement was made a long time
ago. It is fair to ask the question. Why was it decided upon then, and upon what basis? The question continued a) If the view was in any way based upon studies, please table those studies and identify:
(i) when each was prepared (ii) who prepared each (b) In any event, if you have not already been asked to table it by reason of the above questions, will you table a copy of the “preliminary patronage studies” the Minister refers to as supporting her argument that an additional 2,500 people will use the new service.