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Jul 5, 2017

Pro-tem Chair Chides Ministers’ Conduct in Hearing

Senator for Trade Unions and Civil Society Elena Smith took the chair for the first time as pro-tem chair, replacing the absent Aldo Salazar who returns next week after being elected by her peers. She humorously denied being the cause of the Ministers’ behaviour but did not hold back in criticizing them as disrespectful and apparently ignorant of the reasons why they were called in. While any decision on behaviour at the inquiry will be the province of the Director of Public Prosecutions if the Committee feels it necessary, the Committee, she said, wants to send the message that future attendees can check their egos at the brown doors of the Assembly Chamber.

 

Elena Smith

Elena Smith, Pro-tem Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“I think it’s obvious that the ministers who appeared before us today were not particularly keen on being with us today and so that was evident in their action towards the senators. I hope you are not suggesting that because of a new chair today that that is the reason why they reacted the way they did. I think that in particular for the two ministers who came before us today, they had issues with the testimony of Miss Burgess, so we knew that they would have had some negative reaction. However, we did not expect that as ministers that they would come here and be disrespectful.”

 

Reporter

“Is it a concern for you that if there are other ministers called and that they are in the hot seat, being questioned for whatever is revealed in the reports or in the hearings themselves, that they will become confrontational with the persons asking questions?”

 

Elena Smith

“I don’t see a need for that to happen. The questions that are being asked are in no way personal. We are not attacking any minister personally; we are just going by what it is that we need to do as senators in this inquiry. I understand that some ministers are unable to keep their cool as best as some other would do. So we would expect that some ministers would become aggravated easier than others. That does not mean though that it gives them the right to act the way these ministers behaved today.”

 

Reporter

“Is there any way that the senators or you specifically or the chair, whoever, if Mister Aldo comes back; that they can control the witnesses to keep them in line, to make sure that respect is across the floor?”

 

Elena Smith

“Well it depends on who you are asking because some persons will say that the questions that are asked is what determines the way the respondents react  and so if I am asking you a question that you are uncomfortable with, then you are going to react in a certain manner. But if I ask you a question that really and truly doesn’t bother you, it will not affect the way you respond to me. I believe that we have tried our best, we have done our best, Senator Salazar has done his best and I think I did my best today to ensure that we did not get personal with each other. Unfortunately, one minister decided to do so. He just chose to display his arrogance.”

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