Statement of Regret By the Honourable Franca Arena



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SpeakersArena The Hon Franca; Shaw The Hon Jeffrey; Hannaford The Hon John; Burgmann The Hon Dr Meredith; Chesterfield-Evans The Hon Dr Arthur; Nile Reverend The Hon Fred; Pezzutti The Hon Dr Brian
BusinessSuspension of Standing Orders

STATEMENT OF REGRET BY THE HONOURABLE FRANCA ARENA

Suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.

The Hon. FRANCA ARENA [2.42 p.m.], by leave: I move the following motion, as amended:
      That the House accepts a statement of regret by Mrs Arena in the following terms as a sufficient response to the resolution of the House on 1 July 1998 requiring an apology:
          Honourable members will know that I have sworn on the Bible at the hearings of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics, that I have never made any allegations of criminal conspiracy.
          However, insofar as the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics has found otherwise, I wish to say to Justice Wood, Mr Carr and Mr Collins that I am sorry and regret such misunderstanding has arisen from my speech.
          Although I did not intend to imply any criminal conspiracy, if people have drawn such an inference, I regret that, and to remove any doubt, I hereby withdraw any such implication.
          I express also my regret to the House.

I have not made an apology in the terms required by the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics and the House for two reasons. First, I could not make an apology for imputations of criminal conspiracy because I never made such imputations. Such an apology would require me to mislead the House. Second, because of advice given by my barrister, Mr Philip Taylor - which advice has been circulated to all honourable members - I believe that there is a real doubt whether the House has the implied power to suspend a member from the service of the House until the tendering of an apology in terms specified by the House.

All honourable members are waiting anxiously for the High Court decision in Egan v Willis and Cahill. The decision in that case will answer the important question regarding the powers of this House. Regardless of the outcome, I thank the coalition and crossbench members for their support regarding this motion. I thank my barrister, Philip Taylor, for his learned counsel and dedication. I thank also the Clerks who have given me valuable advice. I thank my husband, my greatest supporter, and my sons, Mark and Adrian, my secretary, Adriana, and all my friends. Finally, I thank the community without whose support I would not have survived this difficult time.

The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading) [2.45 p.m.]: The Government’s view is that the motion by the Hon. Franca Arena should not be supported. The motion seeks to circumvent the motion passed by this House on 1 July, which set out the basis and terms of the necessary apology from the honourable member in relation to improper allegations she made against the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and Justice Wood in his capacity as royal commissioner. Those allegations were most serious and represented an abuse of the protection offered to members of this House. For that very reason and having regard to the great reluctance of the House to in any way inhibit the free speech of members, the allegations have been the subject of extensive inquiries.

In the first instance, on 24 September 1997 the Parliament passed the Special Committee of Inquiry Amendment Act 1997 and on 25 September 1997 it resolved to establish a special commission of inquiry into those allegations to determine whether the honourable member had any evidence to support them. In his report of 7 November 1997 Justice Nader, QC, concluded that there was no evidence to support the claims made by the Hon. Franca Arena, or any part of them, that they were false in all respects, and that there was nothing amounting to evidence that could have provided to any reasonable person acting in good faith any justification whatsoever for the claims or any part of them. Justice Nader concluded:
      The evidence strongly suggests that Mrs Arena knew that she had no such evidence.

In referring to the honourable member’s original speech, Justice Nader said:
      There is no doubt that taken as a whole that speech is an accusation of serious criminal conduct on the part of the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, Justice Wood and perhaps also on the part of Justice Sheahan and Mr Della Bosca.

Upon the tabling of this report on 11 November 1997 this House determined to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics. The terms of reference are set out in the report of the standing committee that was tabled in this House on 29 June. I do not need to restate the imputations that the committee found flowed from the speech made by the honourable member on 17 September 1997. It is sufficient to say that the committee unanimously found that the allegations of the Hon. Franca Arena were, first, untrue; second, made without any reasonable foundation upon facts known to her, or reasonably capable of being checked by her; and, third, extremely hurtful and damaging to the reputations of each person referred to in the allegations.

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The committee found that the allegations made in the honourable member’s speech involved, in substance, the allegation of an illegal conspiracy notwithstanding that the Hon. Franca Arena did not expressly describe such alleged conduct as either illegal or involving a conspiracy. The committee concluded that the conduct of the honourable member in making the accusations in her speech fell below the standard that the House is entitled to expect of a member and brought the House into disrepute. After having reached those conclusions the committee considered that the protection of the House as a parliamentary institution required that the abuse of the privilege of freedom of speech must be curbed by appropriate protective measures.

The motion passed by this House on 1 July is in the terms recommended by the standing committee as necessary to protect the integrity of this House. I remind honourable members that the resolution of the House contained within it the necessary words of apology. This is in keeping with the recommendations of the committee, which considered that the Hon. Franca Arena should not be allowed to make a token apology and withdrawal. I remind the House also that the committee’s recommendation was unanimous. Today we have witnessed a token and meaningless attempt by the honourable member to avoid the consequences of her actions.

The committee found the false allegations contained in the Hon. Franca Arena’s speech involved abuse of a privilege that she enjoys as a member of this House and so damaged the standing and dignity of the House by undermining public confidence in, and respect for, the House as an institution. The committee specifically found that the Hon. Franca Arena was in contempt of the House and breached the privileges of the House because she did not comply with the general obligation of members to ensure that their conduct does not fall below the standard that the House is entitled to expect of them.

It is clear from the terms of the motion of the honourable member that she still does not understand the seriousness of her conduct in making false allegations against a number of people or the damage she has done, and continues to do, to the standing of the House by her failure to offer a full and proper apology. The wording of the purported apology contained in the motion of the honourable member is not sufficient or acceptable. It refers to a misunderstanding having arisen from the words of her speech. It refers to people having drawn an inference.

This is not a case of people misunderstanding her remarks or drawing inappropriate or incorrect inferences. Had the allegations of the honourable member been true, the conduct would have been illegal and a criminal conspiracy of the most serious kind. I remind honourable members of the terms of those allegations. The honourable member said in her speech:
      . . . following the meeting with Peter Collins and the late meeting at Parliament House, the Premier met with Justice Wood. What happened at the meeting between Justice Wood and Carr I do not know. No information was leaked, but I am bold enough to presume that an agreement was reached to ensure that people in high places would not be named as it would have been too traumatic for the community to realise how many of its so-called upstanding citizens were involved in criminal activities.

She continued:
      I have no doubt that there has been a massive cover-up . . . the system is protecting itself.

These are not words capable of misunderstanding or imputations not properly arising from the allegations. They are direct allegations of a criminal conspiracy. The Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics unanimously made it quite clear that the conduct of the honourable member should be viewed so seriously that she should not be allowed to make a token apology but should be requested to understand and accept the gravity of her conduct and apologise unreservedly for it. There is no apology in the motion. The motion seeks to do precisely what the committee apprehended the honourable member might do. Members of the committee regarded it as unacceptable, and it should be unacceptable to the House. I contend that the original resolution should be allowed to stand and that the apology required by that resolution should be the only acceptable way for the honourable member to respond.

When one considers the text of the statement of regret proposed by the honourable member and compares it to the original resolution of the House, reflective as it is of the extensive deliberations and unanimous determination of the House’s committee, a number of differences stand out and appear quite startling. First, the word "apology" is not used - the statement does not purport to be an apology. Second, the statement incorporates an assertion that there was never any allegation of criminal conspiracy - contrary to the clear findings of Justice Nader, and contrary to the findings of the committee of the House. The assertion, the reiteration of the proposition, that there was never an allegation of criminal conspiracy - an assertion contained in the so-called statement of regret - cannot stand analysis and cannot be supported.

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Further, the honourable member expresses regret for a misunderstanding by other persons; she does not express regret for the imputations she made. In other words, the honourable member does not accept blame or responsibility; she simply expresses regret for the misunderstanding, as it is put, by other persons. Therefore, neither in substance nor in form does the proposed statement of the honourable member meet the criteria set out in the resolution of the House.

It is said that this House should revisit fundamentally the resolution it earlier arrived at and make qualitative changes. These are not mere changes of form, these are changes of substance from the earlier resolution of the House. It would make a mockery of the extensive process of the Nader inquiry, the deliberations of the committee of the House and its unanimous conclusion, and the debate in the House for us now, at the death knell, to make these qualitative material and significant changes in what is required. It is regrettable that there is apparently a view on the Opposition benches that honourable members should acquiesce in this proposal. The House should stand firm. It would be regrettable if any internal or external political persuasion were to govern this matter. I urge the House to adhere to its original resolution.

The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [2.55 p.m.]: I listened with interest to the arguments of the Attorney General, most of which were relevant to the debate of 1 July. It is fair to say that the ship of discipline that could have been sailed upon on 1 July has left the wharf. The issue now is: what approach is to be taken, the House having decided on 1 July that it was not going to suspend or expel the member? On 1 July the House decided that all it wanted was an apology and a withdrawal of the imputations of a criminal conspiracy. The House considered an apology to be sufficient to remedy what I regarded as a very grave abuse of the privileges of this House. I will not restate what I said on 1 July about how seriously I viewed the actions of the honourable member. On that occasion I said that I viewed her actions so seriously that they warranted her expulsion from the House.

However, a unanimous recommendation was made to the House by its privileges committee and, that position having been taken, the House should take very seriously the recommendations of that committee. The same situation prevails. The House has expressed in its resolution of 1 July its consideration that the conduct of the Hon. Franca Arena in making certain allegations in her speech of 17 September 1997 fell below the standard that the House is entitled to expect from its members, and brought the House into disrepute. The honourable member stands condemned by the House by that finding. As far as her position in the community is concerned, she stands burdened by the view of the House that her behaviour was not of an acceptable standard for an elected representative of the community.

However, the House took the view, having said that her behaviour was inappropriate, that it would accept an apology to the House and a withdrawal of imputations of criminal conspiracy. The House took the view that that was adequate action to remedy the damage done to the House, keeping in mind that the House does not have the power - as much as honourable members might like to have it - to punish members.

If honourable members had the power to punish the honourable member for her conduct on 17 September 1997 they may have done so. However, we do not have that power. We only have authority to exercise discipline over a member as is necessary to protect the reputation of the House. On 1 July the House took the view that the exercise of that discipline would see the House’s reputation protected and that there would be an appropriate level of redress if an apology was made together with the withdrawal of the imputations of a criminal conspiracy made against the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and Justice Wood.

In paragraph 3 of its resolution of 1 July the House set out a form of apology. The Hon. Franca Arena now asks the House if she may use a different form of apology. Honourable members should bear in mind that there are two issues to be addressed: the first is an apology and the second is a withdrawal of the implication of a criminal conspiracy. As to the second issue, the Hon. Franca Arena has said she withdraws any implication of a criminal conspiracy. The third paragraph of her motion states:
      Although I did not intend to imply any criminal conspiracy, if people have drawn such an inference, I regret that, and to remove any doubt, I hereby withdraw any such implication.

A commission of inquiry in its findings roundly condemned the Hon. Franca Arena. The commission found very clearly that there was no evidence to sustain any of the implications or imputations that arose from her statement, and that there was never in existence any evidence upon which those implications and inferences could be based. One could well say that the commission found that the honourable member misled the House in her allegations. She stands condemned as a result of
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that, and it is my belief that she will be condemned by the community. She has, however, withdrawn the implication of conspiracy. In fact, she has told the House that what she said was wrong.

The implication or inference of the allegation of a criminal conspiracy arose only from the words that the Hon. Franca Arena used in the House, and she has said that she withdraws those implications. The Hon. Franca Arena has said to the House, "I am sorry" and, "I regret the misunderstandings." Some people might apologise, and others might say, "I am sorry" or "I regret the incident." This House has resolved that it wants the honourable member to say, "I apologise." The Hon. Franca Arena, for her own reasons - presumably she believes they are justified, but my view is that they are not - has said that she does not wish to say, "I apologise" but that she does wish to say, "I am sorry" and "I regret". There is no need for the House to look at a thesaurus and adopt a pedantic attitude on this matter.

The House has told the Hon. Franca Arena that it wants her to say, using the words in the resolution, that she apologises to the House and that she withdraws the implications. The honourable member, having said that she is sorry and that she regrets the misunderstandings that arose from her speech, expressed to the House her regret, apology or sorrow that the incident occurred and has clearly withdrawn the implication of criminal conspiracy. In expressing her regret to the House, the Hon. Franca Arena has gone further than the resolution required. I know some Government members would like to punish the honourable member. Indeed, I would think some members on my side of the House would like to punish the honourable member. However, the House does not have the power to punish; it has the power only to protect the reputation of the House.

If in the House an honourable member is prepared to use a form of words that meets the requirement of the House, the House should be prepared to accept that form, and the coalition is prepared to do that. I have a doubt as to whether the House has the power to demand from an honourable member a statement in a particular form. But there is no need to go into that: it is sufficient that the House has resolved that it wants an apology and a withdrawal of the imputation. I take the view, as do my colleagues, that the form of words in the Hon. Franca Arena’s motion satisfy the requirement of the House.

At the end of the day the issues are whether we have protected the reputation of the House. I believe that we have. And whether the honourable member has protected her reputation. No, she has not. The Hon. Franca Arena stands condemned by this House, by the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics, and by an independent commission of inquiry for her statements in the House. The coalition has taken the view that the honourable member has abused the privileges of the House, and coalition members do not resile from that view.

The honourable member did abuse the privileges of the House by making her statements. Having chosen not to exercise its ultimate protection, the House is now burdened with having to decide whether the member’s words satisfy its demand for an apology and a withdrawal. The words in the Hon. Franca Arena’s motion constitute an apology and a withdrawal of the matters that she put before the House in a most condemnatory way on 17 September 1997, and the coalition will therefore accept the motion

The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN [3.06 p.m.]: As Chair of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics, I express disappointment in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition. The committee worked well together in its long and exhaustive inquiry, which ran for more than six months, with meetings and questioning of witnesses taking more than 100 hours. The committee, which included two Opposition members and two crossbench members, reached the unanimous decision that Mrs Arena should, using a certain form of words, apologise and withdraw the implications. The form of words was arrived at after the committee had taken extensive legal advice on what Mrs Arena had said and what she claimed was her problem regarding civil actions and defamation matters. The legal advice to the committee was that, to undo the damage that Mrs Arena had done, she should use a certain form of words: those set out in the committee’s report and accepted in the resolution of the House.

In July this year - 2½ months ago - the House, that is all members present today, agreed to a minor amendment in the wording to delete two of the people named. The House then voted unanimously that Mrs Arena should apologise and withdraw her comments. What has changed in the past 2½ months to make some members change the way they will vote? I should like to quote briefly from the committee’s report about Mrs Arena’s demeanour. During the committee process Mrs Arena demonstrated no evidence of apology for what she had said about the five leaders of this State; she showed no remorse for what she had said. At page 25 of volume 1 of its report the committee said:

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      Mrs Arena’s demeanour at many stages at the hearing was emotional and confrontational, often taunting and abusing Committee members whose questioning was not to her liking.

I remind honourable members that the committee was unanimous in its report. Page 71 of volume 1 of the report states:
      The Committee finds that Mrs Arena’s allegations as to the above conduct:
      (a) were untrue;
      (b) were made without any reasonable foundation upon facts known to her or reasonably capable of being checked by her;
      (c) were extremely hurtful and damaging to the reputations of each of the persons referred to as participants in the three alleged meetings.

I have subsequently spoken to most of those named by Mrs Arena and I know that they were incredibly hurt by what she said about them. At page 72 of the same volume the report states:
      The fact that the Committee’s findings and conclusions are based upon careful consideration of what is necessary for the protection of the House, and not upon what Mrs Arena describes as "transitory political expediency" is confirmed by the fact that those findings are unanimous.

In July this year the House found that for the protection of the House - not for transitory political expediency - an apology and withdrawal were necessary. I wonder why there has been a change in the Opposition’s stance - perhaps it is transitory political expediency. At page 73 the report states:
      The Committee acknowledges that the expression "cover up" does not necessarily allege criminal conduct, and depends for its meaning and effect upon the particular context in which it is being used. Moreover, it is true that Mrs Arena did not expressly describe the relevant conduct in respect of which she made allegations in her speech, as being "criminal" or as constituting a "conspiracy". However, despite the absence of these precise terms of "criminal" or "conspiracy" from her speech, the Committee has concluded that her allegations were, in substance, that a criminal conspiracy had been reached and given effect to, involving the common purpose that Justice Wood would perform his public office as Royal Commission corruptly, by improperly favouring high-profile citizens and protecting them from the investigation and disclosure which his duties and their conduct required, and thus misuse the public funds made available for the conduct of the Royal Commission.

They are the imputations in the speech of Mrs Arena. It is perfectly clear that the position of one of those named, Mr Collins, was that what Mrs Arena said was not only untrue but hurtful, and that she must apologise and withdraw before she returns to the Chamber. Now, however, Mr Collins somehow adopts the position that it is quibbling to say that a statement of regret is just a pedantic difference. There is a difference in substance. In fact, if there is no difference between what the House resolved in July and what Mrs Arena is now offering to do, why is Mrs Arena refusing to do one and offering to do the other? If the Opposition accepts her form of apology she will go straight to the Manly Daily, which is the only newspaper that still runs her position, and claim, "See, it is all true. I didn’t apologise and I’m still in Parliament."

Committee members saw from Mrs Arena’s demeanour before them that she still believes what she said. If, as the Opposition is now trying to say, there is no difference between her form of apology and the committee’s form of words, one must ask the question, "Why won’t she use our wording?" Mrs Arena must withdraw and apologise. What Mrs Arena said should not be forgotten. In her speech Mrs Arena accused the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Collins, of being part of a conspiracy to cover up for paedophiles.

I assure honourable members that some members of the public still believe the sorts of things that Mrs Arena said. They believe that the Leader of the Opposition is one of "them." Taxidrivers have told me that. As soon as one gets into a taxi and admits to being from Parliament, taxidrivers talk about all the paedophiles in Parliament and often name them. They say it is a giant conspiracy because Franca Arena said it in Parliament and got away with it, so it must be true. Mrs Arena said it about the Leader of the Opposition, yet the Opposition is not going to vote to defend him. That is disgraceful!

The Opposition should have enough unity to defend its present leader because he has been accused of one of the grossest crimes that one could possibly be accused of, by a member of this House who refuses to apologise and withdraw, and the Opposition is supporting her. That is one of the most disgusting pieces of political expediency that I have seen in this House.

The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [3.15 p.m.]: It is unfortunate that this House has to consider this motion. All honourable members have a duty to interpret information faithfully. Information that is given to us in confidence must be used wisely. Honourable members have parliamentary privilege, something that is not enjoyed by ordinary members of the public. The privilege is necessary so that this Parliament can be a forum in which the truth can be spoken without fear or intimidation, for the benefit of our constituents.

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However, with that privilege comes the responsibility to support our claims with facts. Wild assertions made under privilege can serve only to diminish the confidence that the public expects of a House of review such as this. Assertions made without foundation deserve to be challenged, and assertions that damage the reputation of individuals or organisations must be balanced by all honourable members who sit in this House. Members must state their knowledge and affairs truthfully and have those statements scrutinised by the public, via the public record, and the media who interpret that record.

The Hon. Franca Arena has had numerous opportunities to present evidence to back her allegations, firstly, at the Nader inquiry and, secondly, and more properly in my view, before her peers on a standing committee of this Parliament. Both those forums decided that her inferences of conspiracy are without foundation. From time to time an elected representative is approached by people in the community with allegations that range from the fantastic to those which, when added to other corroborating information, establish a thread or pattern of possibility that does not entirely suspend either reason or logic.

I am certain that some of the material received by the Hon. Franca Arena falls into this latter category. The Australian Democrats have also been approached by people in our community who have provided us with information about paedophiles. My predecessor, the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby, evaluated some material provided to the Australian Democrats and wrote to the Australian Federal Police urging them to co-operate with Interpol in order to ensure that those who were involved in what was clearly an international pornographic paedophile network were brought to account.

I am not in a position to determine whether the recent arrests in Australia and overseas are a result of that correspondence, but the Australian Democrats chose to act quietly and responsibly when provided with certain information that placed young people, children, and in some cases very young children, at risk. The Internet was the vehicle for the dissemination of that material, as it has been lately disseminating the sexual exploits of the President of the United States of America.

The Hon. Franca Arena has legally and skilfully chosen to sail very close to the edge of a maelstrom; a maelstrom largely, in my view, of her own creation. She has, by any reasonable reading of her speech, made the imputation that Premier Carr, Opposition leader Collins and royal commissioner Wood conspired to conceal paedophile activity in high places by limiting the scope of the royal commission. A more sober assessment of the outcome of whatever meeting took place was that they sought to limit the scale of the royal commission.

The royal commission was originally concerned with police corruption but ended up, at least in the public mind, being largely concerned with paedophilia. The paedophilia aspect has already resulted in a number of arrests and legal proceedings being initiated, and will probably lead to new legislation. The decision to limit the scope of the inquiry further may be criticised but it in no way reflects malice in those who made the decision. It is not for me as a new member to tell the House what it should have done. But as I said in my maiden speech, I am here to put a more preventive model into policy formulation.

If a point of order had been taken during the honourable member’s speech, or if a censure motion had followed soon after, would it have been necessary to have the Nader inquiry or the interminable committee inquiry or to now be discussing suspension? I doubt it. Almost a year has passed; to be precise, a year tomorrow. Those committees and inquiries must have cost taxpayers more than $1 million. The public will ask whether they got value for their money, and the answer is no.

I believe in parliamentary privilege. Members of this House must have the right to speak the truth. Threats of defamation and, irrespective of the verdict, the cost of legal proceedings have allowed the tobacco industry to continue killing people for many years. But the privilege of free speech must not be abused. We may all say things in haste or in the heat of passion. I am aware how difficult it is if one feels strongly about a principle to remain within the limits allowed. In a radio program about tobacco, which went unscripted live to air, the defamation laws muted my ability to tell of the tobacco companies’ murderous marketing.

The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. D. J. Gay): Order! The honourable member must confine his remarks to the motion before the House.

The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: I am talking about the threat of defamation and the importance of privilege.

The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT: Order! Reference to tobacco companies is far beyond the leave of the motion.

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The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: Surprisingly I am still here to tell the tale. The Hon. Franca Arena has had numerous opportunities to correct her statement; so far she has not chosen to withdraw her allegations. The processes set in train by this House to deal with the matter are inadequate, and any punishment short of expulsion resolved by this House is also open to challenge. That challenge would certainly have to be paid for by the taxpayers of this State, as have both previous inquiries. Given the unique circumstances of this matter, if there were no uncertainties surrounding it I would vote for the suspension of the honourable member for the remainder of this session; the principle being that it is better late than never.

However, I am advised that to do so may constitute punishment, and punishment is, apparently, not a power that this House can exercise outside that which is provided for in the standing orders without being subjected to protracted legal challenge. And that is an avenue that the honourable member has said she will pursue. The honourable member has expressed regret in broadly similar terms to those required of her by the resolution of this House on 1 July. This matter must now be finalised in the absence of any clear guidelines. Ironically, it seems that the House has the power to expel, but having not used it in a year it can hardly do so now. The House compromised and allowed an apology; now that it gets the apology, albeit somewhat watered down and expressed as regret and lacking the "a" word, the House must accept the situation it has put itself in.

I am sorry that this matter has not been settled earlier and more decisively. It is in the best interests of everyone to allow the honourable member to continue to sit in this House for the remaining few sitting days of this Parliament. I do not want more legal bickering to encumber the State’s finances. My vote does not endorse her position, but merely recognises the lesser of two evils.

Many parliaments have guidelines for discipline of members. It is time for this Parliament to abandon the common law and adopt a set of guidelines to make sure that this sad farce, in which so much effort has been spent for so little return, does not happen again. In a few months the people will decide whom they wish to represent them in these two Houses of Parliament. Should the Hon. Franca Arena seek their support at the next election, the people of New South Wales will determine whether the Hon. Franca Arena merits a continuing career as their representative. I urge the people to read Hansard and carefully examine the credentials of all the people they vote for, concentrating on the person rather than party affiliations.

Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.24 p.m.]: This motion by the Hon. Franca Arena, amended to add the words "I express also my regret to the House", is a serious matter. Honourable members know that we could spend a great deal of time debating this issue and going over its history but in my mind her brief statement acknowledged that this is a serious moment in the life of this House as it concerns the potential indefinite suspension of a member. It is also a serious moment in the life of Mrs Arena.

Before this House the Hon. Franca Arena stated that she is sorry and that she regrets what she has done. She included in her motion the words, "I am sorry and regret that such misunderstanding has risen from my speech". Referring to Justice Wood, Mr Carr and Mr Collins, she added the words, "I regret that, and to remove any doubt, I hereby withdraw any such implication." She later added the words, "I express also my regret to the House."

In all fairness, adding the words "sorry" and "regret" to "withdrawal" more than meets the technical requirement of the word "apology". I have sought advice on the meaning of the words she used. The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary definition of the word "sorry" is "pained or regretful or penitent" and includes the important words "sorry as an expression of apology". Some honourable members, particularly Government members, want to hear the word "apology". According to the dictionary the word "sorry" includes "an expression of apology". Further, the word "regret" means more than an apology: as defined by the dictionary it includes "I feel or express sorrow or repentance or distress".

I am sure that if a motion were moved that the Hon. Franca Arena had to repent of her statements, people would have thought that was going too far. She has gone further than an apology by using the word "regret", which some members may think is less than an apology, but according to the dictionary includes "repentance". The word "apology" is equal to the word "regretful"; it means "a regretful acknowledgment of an offence". It would be pedantic of honourable members to vote against this motion. The meaning of the words in the Hon. Franca Arena’s statement are clear.

There is confusion about two issues: first, the allegations made by the Hon. Franca Arena, and second, whether there was a paedophile network. Obviously she relied upon unreliable circumstantial information which, after investigation, was shown not to be factual or correct. As to whether there is a paedophile network, the answer is yes. Other honourable members have referred to the Internet
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and other matters. There is no doubt that an extensive paedophile network exists and I know that the Hon. Franca Arena is very concerned not to imply that there is no paedophile network. They are two separate issues; she believes there is a network, and I and other members of this House believe there is a network. I support the motion.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [3.30 p.m.]: This is a very serious matter, and I therefore am pleased to say I have concerned myself to keep all relevant documentation that I could since the matter first came before the House. I draw the attention of honourable members to the words used on that fateful day by the Hon. Franca Arena, who had plenty of notice about what was to happen. The words appear in Hansard of 17 September 1997, on which day the Hon. Franca Arena commenced her speech at 5.27 p.m. I will quote from the report of the special commission of inquiry, which I assume produced an accurate record of statements made by the Hon. Franca Arena on that evening. The honourable member, having quoted, almost in full, an article that appeared in the Sun-Herald of 17 March 1996, said:
      Did that not give us a lot of hope that things would change? But what happened? The next day Bob Carr’s office denied that such a meeting was ever going to take place, but it is fair to assume that a meeting did indeed take place when the furore had died down.

In other words, the Hon. Franca Arena, in saying "it is fair to assume", is alleging that it happened. The honourable member’s statement continued:
      There was also another meeting which took place here at Parliament House late the following Sunday between Bob Carr; the General Secretary of the Australian Labor Party, John Della Bosca; party president, Terry Sheahan; and other important figures in the ALP. Are these people going to deny the meeting took place?

The statement continued:
      I had confirmation by security officers and others unable to talk about it publicly who could testify to it but are in fear of losing their jobs. I believe it was all to organise damage control. Following the meeting with Peter Collins and the late meeting at Parliament House, the Premier met with Justice Wood. What happened at the meeting between Justice Wood and Carr I do not know. No information was leaked, but I am bold enough to presume that an agreement was reached to ensure that people in high places would not be named as it would have been too traumatic for the community to realise how many of its so-called upstanding citizens were involved in criminal activities.

They are the allegations that were made by the Hon. Franca Arena. For those who do not believe that she made any allegations, I refer to the fact that this House has decided, by vote on a motion, that the Hon. Franca Arena should apologise to the House in the following terms:
      I hereby withdraw the allegations made in my speech to the House on 17 September 1997 . . .

That is the first part of the apology that we were meant to hear. It appears that the Hon. Franca Arena does not now wish to abide by that part of the apology, because she said in her motion:
      Honourable members will know that I have sworn on the Bible at the hearings of the Parliamentary Privileges and Ethics Committee, that I have never made any allegations of criminal conspiracy.

In other words, the honourable member is saying that we will have to swallow her assertion that she has made no such allegation. It is perfectly clear to me that allegations were made. But honourable members should not just take my word on that. The Hon. Franca Arena was to have said:
      I hereby withdraw the allegations made in my speech to the House on 17 September 1997, which involved imputations against Mr Carr, Mr Collins, Mr Justice Wood, Mr Della Bosca and Mr Sheahan . . .

The latter two persons have been removed from the apology, but the two politicians Mr Carr and Mr Collins, and Justice Wood are named. Were allegations made? In fact they were. On 17 November 1997 the Hon. Franca Arena issued a statement, the second paragraph of which reads:
      I believe Parliament should wait for Commissioner Ryan’s report before coming to any conclusions. After all, Parliament wanted the documents supporting my allegations to be examined by both Mr Nader and Commissioner Ryan.

In other words, the Hon. Franca Arena says that allegations were made. The next issue arises from an examination of the debate that followed.

Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: On a point of order. As I said in my brief remarks, this House could rehash the whole matter, but honourable members have before them a motion moved by the Hon. Franca Arena which, summed up, basically asks whether we accept the word "regret" in place of the word "apology". The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti is now going back over the inquiry conducted by the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics, the Nader inquiry and other matters, rehashing a speech he has already made.

The PRESIDENT: Order! What is the point of order?

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Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: That Standing Order 81 provides that no member shall digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Standing Order 81 provides that members must not digress from the subject matter under discussion. However, it has been the practice of the Chair to allow some latitude.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I am being careful to select the correct words on this issue of whether an allegation was made by the Hon. Franca Arena, and if so whether such allegation should be withdrawn. The Leader of the Opposition said in his contribution:
      It is not a defence for a member to raise a concern that they want to be investigated and then claim that it was not an allegation, even though an allegation clearly arises.

Further in his contribution on 1 July the Leader of the Opposition said:
      In the case of allegations made against members of Parliament or judicial officers, the Parliament provides for investigations to be undertaken, not to determine whether the allegation is right or wrong but to determine whether in the public interest the member or officer against whom the allegations are made should be removed from public office.

To be certain about the issue in this debate and the nature of the vote that this House took in the last session, I refer to an important point raised by the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann:
      In conclusion, I put on the record the personal hurt I felt about the allegations of corruption and bias in my conduct of the inquiry.

In other words, the Hon. Franca Arena was throwing the bat around a bit. A media release issued by the Hon. Franca Arena on 24 March, under the heading "Privileges Committee biased", stated:
      Franca Arena today claimed that the Privileges Committee is biased against her.

It is improper, in fact disorderly, to criticise the operations of a parliamentary committee. The Hon. Franca Arena should have been censured for that statement as well. The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn said in his contribution:
      In her speech the Hon. Franca Arena suggested that certain prominent people, including the Premier of New South Wales and the royal commissioner, had been involved in meetings or agreements concerning an alleged cover-up of names of high-profile paedophiles.

Later in his contribution the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn said:
      However, in the overall course of our exhaustive deliberations, I believe the findings of the committee demonstrate that procedural fairness was accorded to the Hon. Franca Arena in accordance with the terms of reference issued by the House . . .

In other words, he said that the Hon. Franca Arena got a pretty fair go. Further into his speech he said:
      The committee found, in accordance with the terms of reference, that her actions were not justified. I support the recommendations in the report.

The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner said:
      The terms of apology recommended by the committee were arrived at after months of meetings.

My colleague the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner made this very important point in that debate:
      The committee did consider recommending that the wording of an apology from the Hon. Franca Arena be left to be worked out between the Hon. Franca Arena and the committee, if the House agreed with the findings and that recommendation of the committee.

The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner went on to say:
      I was concerned that that would possibly leave the Hon. Franca Arena in limbo.

Of course, it has not left her in limbo. The committee decided that it wanted an apology, which would consist of two parts. It recommended:
      That the apology be in the following terms:
          I hereby withdraw the allegations made in my speech to the House on 17 September 1997 . . .
          I also hereby apologise to the House and to those people for making those imputations.

That is what the Hon. Franca Arena is meant to have said. However, she replaced that wording but not with a withdrawal of the allegations. The honourable member should have done the decent thing and withdrawn the allegations. Why should the honourable member withdraw the allegations? On page 35 of his report Justice Nader, RFD, QC, stated:
      I conclude that there was no meeting as alleged by Mrs Arena. Having regard particularly to the evidence of the security staff, I also conclude that Mrs Arena was not telling the truth in her speech about the basis of her allegation that there was such a meeting. In fact, she had no information capable of supporting her allegation.

The Hon. Franca Arena did not appear before the Nader inquiry for a number of reasons which she
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explained at the time as being constitutional reasons, but she was represented at the inquiry to protect her interests.

The Hon. Franca Arena: Not true.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Sorry, the Government offered her representation at the inquiry but she did not take advantage of that. However, the honourable member was happy to be judged by her peers so this House referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics for investigation. That committee made certain findings which were unanimously adopted by the House and recommended that the honourable member be called on to make an apology in a certain form. I was not satisfied with that, and honourable members who have read my previous contributions to this debate will understand why. However, I decided to accept the committee’s recommendations if they resolved the matter and those concerned were comfortable with the honourable member withdrawing the allegations and apologising to the House.

Perhaps the Hon. Franca Arena was carried away with trying to do good deeds. However, I refer honourable members to media releases during that time, when the honourable member knew that she had no evidence to support her allegations and the judge had found no evidence to support them. The honourable member requested that the House refer the information relating to paedophilia, which was unrelated to the allegations against Mr Carr, Mr Collins and Justice Wood, to Mr Ryan, and the Opposition agreed to the request. I understand that Mr Ryan is still investigating those matters. He has not yet reported on them, as he properly should not do. It is for Mr Ryan and the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether they want to pursue those matters. Every allegation, whether harebrained or hearsay, is being investigated.

I would love to read onto the record an affidavit about some of the allegations made in the evidence given to Commissioner Ryan but I do not have the approval of the person who sent it to me. As soon as the committee began its inquiry the smokescreen went up; the honourable member claimed that the committee was biased.

The honourable member did not say that she had no evidence, that she was terribly sorry she had made an error, that she was misled, that she did think that it was important for her to make her speech at that time because she had enough evidence but she misjudged it, or that she was sorry but she was simply concerned about the paedophiles. We heard nothing like that. The honourable member immediately said that the committee was biased against her, that anything it asked her was biased, and that it was pursuing and persecuting her. In a press release the Leader of the Opposition in the other place said:
      . . . the Coalition had opted against expulsion at this stage because it did not want to make Mrs Arena a martyr.
      He said the referral would give Mrs Arena one final opportunity to explain her extraordinary allegations, found by the Nader Inquiry to be "false in all respects".
      "The Joint Party room has passed a motion referring this matter to the Privileges and Ethics Committee," Mr Collins said.
      "There is no question that I and the others named by Mrs Arena have been exonerated by the Nader inquiry.
      "The over-riding concern in the Joint Party room was that justice be seen to be done and that Mrs Arena not be made a martyr.
      "Mrs Arena has made it clear that the one forum she is prepared to answer to is the Parliament.
      "She will now have to answer to her parliamentary colleagues before the Privileges and Ethics Committee."

I shall give honourable members an idea of how recently this occurred. While all this was going on, an article in the Manly Daily of 13 June this year stated:
      I’ve nothing to apologise for: Franca

Although Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile believes that the Hon. Franca Arena was apologetic and deeply regretted what she had said, the Manly Daily reported the Hon. Franca Arena as saying that she had nothing to apologise for. The article further stated:
      Northern Beaches MLC Franca Arena is not expecting a fair report from the Parliamentary Ethics and Privileges Committee because, she says, the Labor Party is determined to see her expelled.
      She used the forum of a function held in her honour last night to issue a stinging rebuke to the committee which will decide if she can stay in Parliament.

The article continued:
      "It has been an unfair, biased saga which will not bring any honour to the parliamentary process when all the facts are revealed."
      Mrs Arena said the Privileges Committee would soon report to Parliament.
      "Don’t hold your breath for a fair report.

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      "The committee is dominated by Labor and the Labor Party wants to see me out of Parliament."

The article further stated:
      "The committee has been a Star Chamber and the whole process has had very adverse effects on my health and my husband’s," she said.
      "However, I will not be silenced. The Privileges Committee’s hearings have been conducted in camera and the transcripts have been heavily edited, in many cases unnecessarily and unfairly."

If that is not serious criticism of a parliamentary committee which deserves the censure of this House I do not know what is. The Hon. Franca Arena had no intention whatever of apologising to the House. The article further stated:
      "The Privileges Committee might ask me to apologise and if I refuse they may suspend me from the Parliament until I do," she said.
      "I want to tell you tonight I have nothing to apologise for.
      "Undoubtedly some of the things said on September 17 have been misconstrued and I should have been more careful with my words.

The point is that the allegations were made and the honourable member should apologise for them. Members of the committee, including the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner and the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn, considered that it would be difficult for the Hon. Franca Arena to apologise but that it was procedurally fair to ask her to do so. The House agreed unanimously with the committee’s recommendation that the apology should take a certain form, although I thought that that was a fairly light sentence. I did not hear all the evidence or the advice given by the Queens Counsel about what could and could not happen, so I accepted the advice of my colleagues.

I listened carefully to the debate in this House, including the contributions of my colleague the Leader of the Opposition and the Attorney General. The Hon. Franca Arena did not express contrition, regret or sorrow in the public statements reported in the article in the Manly Daily of 13 June or the deep regret that Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile says the honourable member felt at that time.

Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: We are discussing the motion.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I am discussing the motion, precisely. If Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile had been present and had listened, he would have noted that I have been careful to keep my remarks close to the content of the motion. I will not quibble with a resolution of this House. The House unanimously agreed to the motion; to cavil with it would result in a motion being moved against me under a different standing order. The Hon. Franca Arena has aimed at turning the decision of the House on its head. In other words, she wants to play with the House. The honourable member has trifled enough with the House by accusing the committee of being biased and unprincipled, by taking the matter to a wider audience, and by criticising the mechanisms of the House, which is clearly disorderly and a contempt of the Parliament.

However, all that has been forgotten because the Hon. Franca Arena was emotional at the time, it was a serious and worrying time for her, and she was under a great deal of distress. Why? Because every allegation she made about the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and Justice Wood was false, and she knew they were not true when she made them. Many editorials were written when this matter was proceeding and it was suggested that she should fall on her sword, so to speak, and resign; she had achieved what she wanted, that is, the inquiry into the allegations of a criminal conspiracy and the issue of a paedophilia network. Investigations into paedophilia were on the royal commission’s agenda, so in a way she got what she wanted.

I do not know whether serious investigations would have been undertaken had she not taken the action she did, but she got the inquiry she wanted. Meanwhile, the evidence she inadvertently used, I suspect for the purpose of exposing paedophiles, had an impact on the reputations of Justice Wood, the Premier of New South Wales and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Collins. The evidence was not considered to be fanciful. Many people took it seriously and are convinced that we are part of a conspiracy to stop the truth coming out. Unless the Hon. Franca Arena willingly withdraws the allegations, instead of offering the simple statement that she regrets that people may have misunderstood her, we cannot be sure that the community will believe that the allegations were untrue. They would think, "The Hon. Franca Arena said it in Parliament and did not say it was not true."

After a distinguished, but somewhat patchy, career of more than 16 years, to resign from the House would place the Hon. Franca Arena in a good position to again raise this issue if the Government did not undertake the proper investigations. The issue should not be left hanging; the least she should do is withdraw the allegations. I do not accept her apology and I will do all I can to implement the
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decision of this House on 1 July. In making her apology the honourable member said:
      Honourable members will know that I have sworn on the Bible at the hearings of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics, that I have never made any allegations of criminal conspiracy.

Clearly she has made allegations of criminal conspiracy. The Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, the committee and I believe that is why she should apologise. The second part of the apology states:
      However, in so far as the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics has found otherwise, I wish to say to Justice Wood, Mr Carr and Mr Collins that I am sorry and regret such misunderstanding has arisen from my speech.

That is just a nice way of saying, "Fellows, you got it all wrong. I did not mean any of that, but I will not say it is not true. I am not going to withdraw it. If you are upset, I regret that. I regret the misunderstandings." She said further:
      Although I did not intend to imply any criminal conspiracy -

that does not mean she did not imply it -
      if people have drawn such an inference, I regret that, and to remove any doubt, I hereby withdraw any such implication.

She did not withdraw her factual statements that the Premier had meetings on a Sunday. In the lower House Bob Carr said, "I have never had a meeting at Parliament House on a Sunday afternoon. Never. Not once."

The Hon. J. W. Shaw: Never had a meeting with Mr Collins about this matter.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I will come to that. He said that he never had a meeting at Parliament on a Sunday afternoon. How much more definite could he be? Yet the Hon. Franca Arena is not prepared to withdraw that allegation. Justice Nader found no support for any so-called evidence from a security officer that such a meeting took place and he too said the allegation was not true. The Hon. Franca Arena is not prepared to withdraw that statement or the statement that the Leader of the Opposition and the Premier met to discuss the royal commission proceedings. She now accepts that it may not be true, and she has withdrawn the implication perhaps, but will not withdraw the statement that a series of meetings were held with a particular aim.

Unless the Hon. Franca Arena is prepared to withdraw what she says are factual statements, I am not prepared to accept her new apology. Instead I will support the original motion that was passed by the House on or about 1 July. It is appalling that at this stage for the first time the honourable member has apologised to the House for what has been done to its reputation.

The Hon. J. W. Shaw: She expresses regret to the House.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: That is right. It is appalling that in her amended motion she expresses regret to the House. This entire issue is one of privilege. As I have said previously, I inadvertently defamed a member of the community at a committee hearing. When it was brought to my attention I asked the President how that could be rectified, since the new format provided that avenue. The matter cannot be brought before the House, but the person concerned has a right of reply. I have instructed that person how to seek the right of reply; I have taken whatever steps I can to undo what I did. I told the House what I said and why I was wrong.

If honourable members use privilege to make statements or to take actions that cannot be taken in any other way, they have to be extremely careful not to damage the reputation of other people. If honourable members make a mistake, they should take whatever steps they can to remedy it. In this case, the Hon. Franca Arena has no choice but to withdraw the allegations and to apologise for the actions she has taken. Without the withdrawal the apology means very little. She should further amend her motion to apologise to the House for, first, the demeaning effect of the whole process on members and the way she has abused the very people -

Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.