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MP cites WA Minister for Environment for misleading house on parliamentary question about lead poisoning issue in Esperance

Posted by gmarkets on 22 September, 2007

During a sitting of the Western Australia Legislative Assembly on 15 August 2007, Liberal MP Colin Barnett, Member for Cottesloe, asked for the suspension of standing orders to make a censure motion against the Minister for the Environment for misleading the house during his answer to a parliamentary question in relation to the lead poisoning issue in Esperance. Simple question put to Minister on 22 August: Barnett said he did not intend to detain the house for very long at all but simply wanted to make the point that yesterday, a clear question was asked of the Minister for the Environment about a highly contentious public issue over lead poisoning in the town and the port of Esperance. It was the sort of issue that any minister would have foremost on his radar screen, Barnett said. The question included, “Did the minister or any of his staff advise the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure that the Department of Environment and Conservation was about to lay charges against the Esperance Port Authority?” Anyone who was or had been a minister would know the answer to that question. The minister’s answer was no.

Surely a misleading statement, MP says: Barnett said the Minister denied that his staff had tipped off the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. He misled this house, Barnett added. There was no doubt about that. Barnett said he found it inconceivable that he and his staff would not have been aware that the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure had been tipped off.

Minister for Planning also guilty: Indeed, when the Minister for the Environment answered no in question time, the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure was sitting over on the other side and remained silent. She had an opportunity to get up or to interject and correct the public record immediately. Therefore, he misled the house and the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure was duplicitous. That was unacceptable. The minister was asked a question on an issue that was very much in the public domain.

Lead poisoning issue: We were talking about a scandalous issue of lead poisoning – a major public health issue under the responsibility of the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure and the Minister for the Environment. The Minister for the Environment was asked, “In relation to the laying of charges under the environmental legislation, did the Minister for the Environment alert the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure?” It was a fairly pertinent point, when the minister had previously made a comment to the effect that “This has nothing to do with me. This is a departmental process.”

Clearly misleading: It had nothing to do with him until he tipped off the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. Suddenly, it had something to do with him. In my view, Barnett said, the Minister had misled this house. He answered straight out, “No.” There was no equivocation about it. He said, “No.” He did not say, “I’m unsure; I need to check; I need to find out”, and the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure sat over there and just went along with it.

No shame: This was a government without integrity. We saw it today with the response of the Premier to the questions about the drink-driving offence of the member for Collie-Wellington; that is just one more example.

Reference: C.J. Barnett, Member for Cottesloe, Legislative Assembly, Western Australia, 15 August 2007.

Erisk Net, 23/8/2007

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