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Motion to Refer Brooks to Privileges Committee

28 November 2018

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Premier, you have had a very 
bad week-and-a-half, a very bad year, in fact.

Mr Hodgman - The election result was a shocker.

Ms O'CONNOR - It was for you, Premier. Despite soliciting and obtaining 
millions of dollars from the predatory gambling industry to secure your re-
election, you scraped in with a one-seat majority, which is entirely 
precarious.

Mr Hodgman - Scraped in? You lost two seats. Don't talk to us.

Ms O'CONNOR - The term that comes to mind right now is chickens coming 
home to roost. In the past five years under this Premier and this 
Government, there has been such disrespect for proper processes or a high 
standard of ethical conduct. We had to sit in the previous term of the 
parliament before a measure of independence was brought into the Chamber, 
listening to ministers repeatedly not answering questions, waffle on, 
obfuscate, and sit across the Estimates table and refuse to provide the 
most basic answers on matters of administration of a minister's' portfolio
. We listened to it all for four years, and if there was one person in 
this place who was going to end up before the Privileges Committee, I 
would argue it is Adam Brooks. Anyone who has spoken to Adam Brooks about 
what he thinks of politics will know he thinks it is a game. He said to 
me, 'It's a funny old game, isn't it?'. That is the problem and why we 
are here at this point today.

The most serious breach of the standard of conduct people expect from 
elected representatives, I would argue, is his utter misleading of the 
people of Braddon. It is the people of Braddon who elected Mr Brooks to 
this place and who are entitled to hear the truth from Mr Brooks after 
misleading parliament three times and misleading the people who elected 
him and gave him the honour and the privilege of sitting in this place to 
represent the north-west of Tasmania.

Regrettably for Mr Brooks, he will go before the Privileges Committee, 
because he deserves it. We had to listen in the last term of parliament, 
and in fact in the term before that because Mr Brooks was elected in 2010, 
to him constantly warp the facts, distort the truth, make false 
allegations and treat this place as a playpen, so it is no surprise to us 
that Mr Brooks will be referred to the Privileges Committee.

We heard the Premier just then make multiple excuses, if you like, and 
point to parts of the Integrity Commission report that favour a glossing 
over of the facts here. Tomorrow the House will debate the long overdue 
Code of Ethical Conduct for Members. This is the standard we should all 
apply to ourselves and each other and that the Tasmanian people expect us 
to adhere to. The preamble starts with this:

Members of parliament recognise that their actions have an impact on the 
lives of all Tasmanian people. Fulfilling their obligations and 
discharging their duties responsibly requires commitment to the highest 
ethical standards to maintain and strengthen the democratic traditions of 
the state and the integrity of its institutions. Compliance with the law 
may not always be enough to guarantee an acceptable standard of conduct. 
Members must not only act lawfully but also in a manner that will 
withstand close public scrutiny.

Madam Speaker, Mr Brooks' behaviour does not withstand close public 
scrutiny. When we go to the section about ethical standards and conflict 
of interest - and there is no word 'material' in front of this either - it 
says:

A member protects and upholds the public interest by taking all reasonable 
steps to avoid, disclose and manage any conflict of interest that arises 
or is likely to arise between their personal interests and their official 
duties. A conflict of interest may be financial or non-financial and may 
be potential, actual or perceived.

There is no question that Adam Brooks had a conflict of interest when he 
was appointed to Cabinet, and it is a failure on the part of the Premier 
to have made sure that his ministerial code of conduct was upheld.

The parts of the Integrity Commission report that the Premier studiously 
avoided reading out, the pages he swerved by, are the findings on the 
basis of the evidence obtained by the commission that: 

Mr Brooks omitted to accurately inform the Premier about the true nature 
of his ongoing involvement in the operation and management of his relevant 
business interests while he was a Minister. 

Conflict of interest. 

Mr Brooks did not provide the Premier on 7 March, 20 May or 10 June 2016 
with an accurate update about his ongoing involvement in the operations 
and management of his relevant business interests. 

Conflict of interest.

Mr Brooks did not properly advise the Premier on the 7 March, 20 May or 
10 June 2016, that the objective of the Protocol - that he have no 
involvement, in any form, formal or otherwise, in the management and 
operation of any of the relevant businesses - was not being met. 

Mr Brooks did not provide the Premier with an accurate account of how a 
filtering system prevented him from accessing or seeing business-related 
emails on 10 June 2016.

The Integrity Commission further found:

Mr Brooks proposed an audit of his email account on 10 June 2016 to the 
Premier knowing that he had deleted emails from that account on 910 June 
2016 that indicated he had: ongoing involvement in the operation and 
management of MSS, exercised influence over the operational decisions of 
MSS, and not removed himself from the management and operational decisions 
of MSS. 

The Premier can stand in this place and selectively point to parts of the 
Integrity Commission report that find Mr Brooks did not have a material 
conflict of interest, but that is the only thing the Premier can hang his 
hat on here, because the rest of the report is utterly damning.

I do not know if Mr Brooks is watching this debate. If he is not feeling 
mentally well I would hope he is not, but I agree with Mr Bacon that Mr 
Brooks should consider his position as an elected member. He was elected 
on a lie. The people of Braddon cast their vote for Mr Brooks in good 
faith, trusting him to have told the truth about his connections to his 
former company when he was a minister, to have told the truth to the 
Premier, but he did not tell the truth. He is a serial liar, and that is 
a shameful and disgraceful tag to have associated with your name. It 
certainly does not adhere to or uphold a high ethical standard of conduct. 
It is certainly a source of frustration to Dr Woodruff and me that every 
time a Tasmanian elected representative misbehaves we are all smeared. It 
drags us all down, because out in the community often there is no 
distinction made between members of parliament from different parties.

When Mr Brooks, through his conduct over years in this place, demonstrates 
himself to be a serial liar, we are all smeared. It is a further erosion 
of public faith in the institution of parliament. This is a very, very 
serious matter. A duly elected member of parliament, a Liberal Party 
member, has been found by the Integrity Commission to be a serial liar. 
He lied to parliament three times on that unforgettable day in Estimates. 
He lied to the Premier repeatedly, lied to the people of Braddon, and lied 
to the Crown Solicitor. This is a very, very serious matter and must be 
examined by the Privileges Committee.

I was having a look earlier at some of the extraordinary powers of the 
Privileges Committee. Under section 3 of the Parliamentary Privilege Act 
1858, which still stands, it allows either House to punish a person, 
including a member of either House, by imprisonment at any place of its 
choosing. This power may be exercised summarily, and rules of evidence 
and due process do not apply to the exercise of parliamentary powers. The 
power to imprison a person summarily applies in relation to a range of 
listed contempts, including to the creating of or joining in any 
disturbance in the immediate vicinity of the House. The summary exercise 
of the power to imprison in relation to the latter offence may infringe on 
the implied constitutional freedom of political communication. The power 
also extends to the historical offence of sending a challenge to fight a 
member.

We thank the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party for bringing 
this referral on. This is exactly the kind of work the Privileges 
Committee should be doing. We continue to argue that for this process to 
be as robust and impartial as possible and, in fact, to be owned by all of 
us, the Greens should have a position on this particular Privileges 
Committee hearing. We believe that would be procedurally fair and will be 
looking to take that up at a later time. 

Madam Speaker, it is not surprising to see so few Government members in 
here during this debate. Clearly the conduct of Mr Brooks has been an 
embarrassment to everyone in the Government. 

I will finish where I started. This is called 'political karma'. This is 
Premier Will Hodgman's chickens coming home to roost. The standards he 
set, not only for his members but for his minister, were so low that now 
we have a former minister and duly elected current member of the 
Government being referred to the Privileges Committee to examine some of 
the most serious allegations that can be made against a member of 
parliament.

Madam Speaker, it is a damning indictment on the Premier.