WORKCOVER AUTHORITY DOCUMENTS
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [12.14 a.m.]: I seek leave to table certain documents that I believe will prove valuable for the information of all honourable members, and will assist those concerned with public administration in this State to avert a repeat of the WorkCover debacle. Much criticism has been levelled at WorkCover in recent times, but it is not that the organisation has been without forewarning of impending crisis. It is for that reason that I seek to table the documents. Evidently, governments comprised of both major political parties have failed to devise proper and adequate strategies to rein in the problem of the uncontrolled escalation in litigation costs of claims settlement. Investigative journalists may draw their own conclusions from this material that I seek to table. It is the financial viability of the WorkCover scheme and the management of that scheme that are at issue. There are serious questions to be asked arising from the annual statements of WorkCover. The information that I seek to table should surely lead to an improvement in the accountability expected of those who administer schemes such as WorkCover. I seek leave to table these documents and I assert that, as they are not publicly available, it is now in the public interest that I do so.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: Before leave is granted, it seems to me the honourable member ought to identify what the documents are, who the authors of the documents are and what the contents in summary form might happen to be. Otherwise I would be consenting on behalf of the Government to something that is not known to me.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: In view of the statement made by the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services, I am happy to assure him that the documents are not publicly available. They deal with the administration of WorkCover and they can only be released under privilege. I have been asked by a constituent to table them under privilege. I believe I have a right to do that, and that it is quite normal for documents to be tabled in this way.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The clock will be stopped while this matter is considered. Does the Minister have anything further to say on this matter?
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: I would like to make it quite clear that it is not the wish of the Government to be obstructive, but leave has been sought and I am not inclined to grant leave.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Is the Minister granting leave or not?
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: If the honourable member will not identify the documents, I refuse leave.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: I have identified the documents. I have said that they relate to the administration of WorkCover and to the management of WorkCover. Once they are tabled they will be available for all members of the House to see and to read under privilege. It is not possible for this information to be released in any other way. I suggest to the Minister that if he is inclined to deny my right to table documents under privilege, I believe it will create a very serious precedent.
The PRESIDENT: Are these documents publicly available?
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: No, I stated that they are not publicly available but that I believe it is in the public interest to table them.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: The documents are in a box; they are not visible. They are not identified by a date, description, author or any other means. Therefore, I am not inclined to consent to the documents being tabled.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister either does or he does not.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: With respect, I previously said that I do not.
Leave not granted.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: On a point of information.
The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order. Leave is not granted.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: On a point of information.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: I have a right to table documents under privilege.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Does the Hon. Virginia Chadwick wish to take a point of order?
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: No, a point of information.
The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of information. The procedures of the House do not permit points of information.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: The Opposition does not agree with the Minister.
The PRESIDENT: Order! It may not. The Minister has refused leave; therefore, leave is not granted. It requires only one voice to refuse leave. Leave is not granted.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: The Opposition seeks redress on this matter and seeks to disagree.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Do you wish to dissent from my ruling?
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: No, I do not wish to do that.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: I will have to take further advice from the Clerk on this matter. I was informed that if members of the public brought me information showing maladministration in a government instrumentality which can be released only under privilege, as a member of this House I have a duty to table those documents under privilege. If it was possible for me to reveal these matters in any other way I would have chosen another course. However, I have the right to table the documents, and it is not reasonable that the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services has denied me that right. Obviously I cannot read on to the record such detailed documents. Indeed, some of the documents cannot be read because they are print-outs and tables that verify the lack of administrative ability of the WorkCover Authority. I can only assume that because the Government has denied me leave to table the documents under privilege it never wants revealed the matters contained in them. I can only assume that the Government also knows that there is something wrong and is assisting in a cover-up. I am perturbed about this, but I do not know what I can do now. I shall have to take further advice from the Clerk and get precedents on this most important matter.