Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (10:41): I am pleased to rise to speak to Mr Davis’s motion 621. As Mr Davis quite eloquently put, this is a simple documents motion. It is simply suggesting, as the Bret Walker advice to the New South Wales Parliament stated, that this Parliament does have the ability to compel independent organisations or statutory organisations to provide documents to this Parliament. Under our evidence act, under our Parliamentary Committees Act 2003, we see this. In fact, the Legal and Social Issues Committee has used that power a number of times in recent years to compel witnesses and documents to be brought forward to the committee as part of its inquiry process.
So, on the face of it, asking for a report or a review done by a statutory body such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission would seem quite simple and it would seem that Mr Walker’s advice supports that. However, there is one I think very substantial fact that has not been mentioned in the very motion that is on the paper or in Mr Davis’s contribution earlier—that there is a court order on this review. And not just a court order; it is from the Court of Appeal. It is three judges ordering VEOHRC not to publish the review or the report. So we are now asking and we are putting VEOHRC into an extremely difficult position, I would suggest. We are also, I would absolutely suggest, effectively overriding that order—or fighting or arguing to override the order of a Court of Appeal.
Now, Mr Davis says that we are entitled to do that—but does that make it right? And what sort of precedent does that set? Last week Mr O’Donohue and I put up amendments to limit the ability of the government of the day to expand suppression orders or victim privacy orders, and we were very concerned that this was giving the government too much power to make directions to the courts. We were specific about that, and Mr O’Donohue, on behalf of the Liberal Party, and I put up very similar amendments that successfully passed this house. Today we are being asked to overrule a court order, to overrule the Court of Appeal, to do this.
Mr Davis says we have every right to do that. I am yet to understand the public interest in doing that. I have great concerns about what sort of precedent this would set. Could a future government override a suppression order, override a victim privacy order because they may suggest that it would be in the interests of the Parliament or in the interests of the government of the day for that information to be made public?
Now, this is a report that was done five years ago. If this motion was serious about achieving equality in our emergency services, well, that would have been an interesting motion to debate: how do we do that? I have a constituent; she is a terrific football player at Fitzroy, and she just got into the fire services. Just last week she was accepted in, and she is extremely excited about this, and I am very pleased to see that. But she will be in the minority. She will be sadly still just one of a handful of female firefighters, and I would support anything that changed that. But to overturn a Court of Appeal decision and put the very treasured institution VEOHRC into a position where they will be in contempt of court or contempt of Parliament—you choose. I choose not to put them into that position.
Today is the International Day of Democracy, and I certainly feel that one of the pillars of our democracy is that clear separation of powers. It is one of the pillars of our democracy, and I feel that this would be an absolutely egregious encroachment upon that separation.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Mr Davis’ motion 15/9/21