Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:25): I prepared to speak to one motion, but with the rather substantial amendment to that motion, will there be three original words in the motion now?
Mr Davis interjected.
Ms PATTEN: There will be four, will there? Right—four original words in the motion.
I do not know if I was unusual in this action, but prior to considering this motion I phoned the Ombudsman this morning to see what she thought about the motion. Much to my surprise, she was very surprised by the motion. She had not heard about it, she had certainly not seen it until I sent it over to her, and she said to me, ‘I think it would be entirely inappropriate for me to appear in the chamber in such a way’. And I thought ‘not only inappropriate but uncomfortable’, because she would have to stand at the gate, we would not be able to provide her with a chair, we probably would not even be able to give her a glass of water. It is not something that we have done. In fact I asked the clerks, ‘When was the last time we did this?’. It was a good 50 years ago, and it was to chastise some journalists about some inappropriate material that they had published. Apparently we then reversed that chastisement a little bit later. But it is not common, and I do not think it is appropriate.
However, I am supportive of the proposed amended motion that we have consideration of this issue. I actually asked the Ombudsman, and she is going to send me some information—if this gets up, I will watch with interest—how do other jurisdictions deal with funding the bodies that provide oversight to the government? How do they do it? Because I think it is a wicked problem that we pay for the people who are providing the oversight and that can put us into a difficult situation where governments may be seen to withholding funds because they do not like what those oversight bodies are doing. I think that is not a position that governments of any persuasion would like to be accused of. So I do think that trying to find some other approach to this that provides some space between the Parliament and those oversight bodies is worthwhile investigating. As I mentioned, I have asked the Ombudsman if she would have a look at how similar offices are funded in other jurisdictions, and she said that she will get back to me about that.
I will keep this quite brief because that is really all I had to say about this. Those organisations must operate unfettered. We know that both the Ombudsman and the Commissioner of IBAC, Mr Redlich, are concerned about the lack of funds that they are receiving. They are concerned about the effect that that may have on their work. They are concerned that this may reduce the work that they are doing, and I know that that would be the last thing the public wants. I certainly think of the very substantial work that IBAC has done and the substantial work that the Ombudsman has done, not least that inquiry into the high-rises in Flemington and Kensington and the work that she did there. Let us hope that we never have to be in that situation ever again. And let us hope that those incredibly hardworking public servants in the Department of Health and housing do not have to make that quite horrible decision that they made again. But I think with the work that was done and with the opportunity of hindsight that the Ombudsman had on that, the dive that she was able to do into the significant human rights issues that she raised in her report, we will not do that again, and we will take the advice and the recommendations of the Ombudsman in that report.
I know that there is not a person in this house who does not fully support the independent work of IBAC and of the Ombudsman, but it may not seem that way when you listen to the Ombudsman on ABC or 3AW asking, pleading, for more resources. It may seem that we are starving the body that is keeping us on the straight and narrow and is keeping us honest, and that is not the perception that I think we should be presenting to the public. So I am fully supportive of the amended motion that the Integrity and Oversight Committee undertake a very short, sharp and urgent inquiry.