Delegation - Japan Vist: Statement

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [5.23 pm]: I rise to provide some information to the chamber on an issue that came up earlier today about a question I had asked about a delegation to Japan. It is true that I did ask a question on 19 March regarding a parliamentary delegation to Japan. Question without notice 252 reads, in part —
(2) If the answer to (1) is yes —
(a) on what dates will the delegation be visiting Japan;
(b) what other meetings or events coincide with this visit, and on what dates;
(c) what is the purpose of the delegation and other meetings or events that coincide with the delegation;
(d) who will be travelling from Australia for this delegation and other meetings or events that coincide with the delegation;
(e) which of those in (d) will be participating at government expense;
(f) what is the source of funding from government to enable the visit to occur; and
(g) what is the total estimated cost to the government for the delegation and other meetings or events that coincide with the delegation?

That question was very interesting. It bounced around in the office when I presented it, because at that time there were several trips to Japan and it was hard for the officers to identify whom to submit the question to. That was very interesting for me, because it is not an unusual thing to ask about public expenditure and whether there was going to be public expenditure. It was confusing as to whom the question was to be directed, but it ended up going to the Premier. The answer was that there was a parliamentary delegation going to Japan, but the answer was a little lacking in detail. The Leader of the House recognised that and undertook to get me some more information later. He told me that no Legislative Council travel was planned for that time, and that he could only assume that the travel related to the Legislative Assembly. The Leader of the House may wish to correct that or check that the record was what the President added to try to identify exactly what was going on. Members can imagine my confusion and the confusion of my constituents who were concerned about this trip and had asked me to inquire about it when we could not pin down who was going where and who was paying for it.

The matter was of interest for a couple of reasons. It was reported in the local press that a couple of mayors in the South Metropolitan Region were attending the delegation, so if our mayors were attending a parliamentary delegation tour, I wanted to find out who was paying for it. I subsequently learnt that in the case of the City of Kwinana, the mayor’s trip was paid for by the City of Kwinana. I found that out because the City of Kwinana is actually transparent in its spending, so the invitation to the mayor was in the minutes, which was what made me ask the question. It was recorded in a public document that she had been invited by Hon Phil Edman to go to Japan on a parliamentary delegation tour, which is where I got the term “parliamentary delegation”. There was a public record of a parliamentary delegation going to Japan, so it was fair enough for me, as a member for South Metropolitan Region, to put that question, so I did, in the appropriate place. Subsequent to that, there were newspaper reports that the mayor of Fremantle was also going to attend. I thought, “That’s interesting. When he gets back, I hope he’ll let me know what’s going on.” We have an appointment to meet tomorrow, and I will find out all about it.

The important thing to remember in this case is that we are held to a standard of transparency. A waste-to-energy facility is being proposed for my region and I know that the proponents are really keen to educate members about its benefits. The proponents may well have participated in funding that tour so that some members could go and learn about a waste-to-energy plant in Japan. What I wanted to know was: were they part-funding it? If they were part-funding it, there may have been an opportunity for them to put a certain slant on the trip, and those members would not be fully educated as to the pros and cons of waste to energy. If we are going to go on an educational tour about waste to energy, let us not just look at one side of it; let us look at both sides. That is what I, as a responsible member of this house, was looking to do.

I am really disappointed—not disgusted—that my attempts at transparency in this matter have led to personal attacks in this house, and I believe that that is enough said about that. But I do know that the Leader of the House has undertaken to provide that information to me. The member has spent many hours in this house giving us a travelogue of his visit to Japan, so we now know what he has done in Japan. I thank him, and appreciate that full and complete report. The only information missing is: who paid for it, did the waste-to-energy company contribute the funding, and when are members going to hear the other side of the story about waste to energy? That is my concern, and that is what I am putting on the record.

Hon Simon O’Brien interjected.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I beg your pardon?

Several members interjected.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Let the member on her feet finish her comments.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I will continue to ask difficult questions. It is my job. I want complete answers.

Hon Simon O’Brien: They’re not just difficult questions.

The PRESIDENT: Order! You cannot continually interject on a member to either silence her or force her to sit down. Whoever has the call is entitled to make the comments they wish to make.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: As I was saying, I expect complete answers. I expect this government to be transparent. My constituents deserve that. I look forward to hearing details when the Leader of the House provides them to me next Tuesday. We have a duty, and I am doing my best to fulfil that duty.