BURNSIDE CITY COUNCIL

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS         (         17:39         :04         ):  I move:    

That in accordance with the recommendation in the report of the Select Committee on the Inquiry into the Corporation of the City of Burnside, the Legislative Council refers the report to the Office of Public Integrity for its consideration.  

I rise to speak to this motion as the acting chairperson of the select committee at its conclusion earlier this year. I suppose the reason for that is that after a quite lengthy and complex inquiry the committee was, for a period, unable to conclude its work because of the lengthy illness of the Hon. Ann Bressington who was, as we all know, the chair of the committee.    

The members of the committee patiently waited hoping that the Hon. Ms Bressington would be available to chair the committee prior to the election so that we could conclude a report that had been developed after hearing from a large number of witnesses and significant hours of work by the committee. Unfortunately, the Hon. Ann Bressington was not well enough to do that and so the committee appointed me as the acting chairperson for the last two or three meetings, I think it was. We developed our report which was delivered to the then president of the Legislative Council prior to the government going into caretaker mode.    

I do commend to anyone who is interested in the work of the committee on this matter to read the body of the report because I think it covers what is one of the most complex matters that I have dealt with in my parliamentary career, and I think my colleagues on the committee would agree with that. For those who have an abiding interest in matters to do with the City of Burnside or with local government in general then it is worth a read.    

The recommendations of this committee were, first, that the investigator not complete the inquiry and a final report; secondly, that the Ombudsman not be requested to proceed with the inquiry and a final report; thirdly, that the inquiry and a final report not be completed by a select committee of the Legislative Council; fourthly, that the report of the committee be referred to the Minister for State/Local Government Relations to consider this report and in particular to give consideration to amending the Local Government Act 1999 to give the Ombudsman and District Court power to consider conduct of a past council member; and the fifth recommendation—which is the actual basis of this motion—is that the Legislative Council considers referring this report to the Office of Public Integrity for its consideration.    

That was the determination of the majority of the committee. I note that the Hon. Mr Kandelaars has made a dissenting statement and no doubt at some stage he will speak to that dissenting statement. However, I thank the members of the committee for the manner in which they have dealt with what has been quite a difficult matter. There are obviously significant differences of opinion about matters that may have occurred in relation to the City of Burnside over a significant period of time.    

I thank the members of the committee—obviously, the Hon. Ann Bressington, who was the chairperson, the Hon. Mr Darley, the Hon. Mr Wade and the Hon. Mr Kandelaars—for their diligence, particularly in those last few meetings when we were obviously very keen that the work of the committee but also the time and effort of witnesses should be reflected in a report of substance and, as we have here today, a recommendation of action by this council.    

In conclusion, I particularly thank the staff of the committee; initially, our Black Rod, Mr Chris Schwarz, who helped us enormously in dealing with what was a complex inquiry, and great credit to Ms Ann McLean for the work she did as our research officer and as someone who drafted a very good report for the committee to adjust in its normal manner.    

Once again, I do say that this has been a matter of great complexity. It is one, however, that the majority of the committee feels strongly should be further dealt with, and the majority view was that this should be done by the Office for Public Integrity. I commend the motion to the council.    

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. A.L. McLachlan.