The below is my paraphrase of the combined submissions House of Assembly members gave to the Commission of Inquiry in recent days, with the exception of Deputy Speaker Neville Smith.
When I won the election, I was keen to get settled in and do my best for the territory. On my first day in the House of Assembly, I was expecting an indoctrination with the other newbies. Instead of a formal session, a clerk told me where the coffee machine and toilets were and pointed to a pile of papers in the in-tray on the desk allocated to me. I was told that longer serving members would be too busy to advise me, and that I would just have to pick things up for myself.
I can’t remember whether I was told that HOA meetings always begin promptly at 10 a.m., but it seems that is a stipulation rarely, if ever, achieved.
On top of the in-tray was a form, headed “Register of Members’ Interests.” Sports? Bridge? Dancing? Clubbing? Rotary? Apparently not, but the accompanying instructions were so complicated they befuddled me, and I decided to leave it until later.
The House got busy with meetings, committees and so on, and I forgot about the form, which gradually worked its way to the bottom of the in-tray.
Registrar of interests
One day I received a letter from a lady called the registrar of interests, reminding me that I should have filled in the form the day I was elected and that failure to do so was a breach of the law. Reminding me? Nobody told me I had to fill it in. The instructions still seemed daunting and by now I was very busy, so I left it again.
Time passed and I received another letter telling me that as the form had not been submitted within three months I was again in default. I wonder what she means by “three months”?
And the form asks for my interests, as well as those of my immediate family. Now, is that my wife and kids, or siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins and so on, of which I have many? So I looked at the act. Nobody was mandated to tell me to complete the form, or remind me, or punish me, apart from a letter to the oversight committee informing them of my default. Oversight committee? What is that? When was it formed? When does it meet? Has it ever met?
It’s now over a year since I was elected. I will get my secretary to fill something in and date it so it appears to comply. If she puts “as at,” that should do it. I didn’t expect the registrar to date it on receipt.
The following year, another reminder from the registrar. Does that woman have nothing better to do? I called and told her there was no change, but she insisted I still had to submit the return. I will do it later.
It’s four years now, and apart from those dang reminders, nobody has mentioned it. I will duplicate the four years of returns and date them “as at.”
Before I know it, another four years has passed and I better find time to comply again because a Commission of Inquiry has landed on us and starts asking all members about their compliance with this requirement, and it seems all of us except one new member are in default.
In my opinion this a minor breach, and they should be looking into corruption, dodgy contracts, suspect board appointments, distribution of Crown lands, misdirection and appropriation of funds, none of which, I am glad to say, concerns or involves me.