Breach Of Privilege – Hon Margaret Wilson
Tuesday 15th May 2001
“Attorney-General Hon Margaret Wilson appears to have committed a breach of privilege when she claimed to parliament that it was Mr Yelich’s lawyer Peter Williams QC who first raised the proposal that the defamation settlement between Mr Yelich and the Prime Minister be secret,” ACT Leader Hon Richard Prebble said today.
“The ACT party will be raising the matter with the Speaker. There are well established precedents that when a member of the public states that a Minister has lied, then the matter is referred to the Privileges Committee.
“This case is not a minor matter. There has never been a taxpayer-funded settlement for a defamation by a Prime Minister. The government has never paid money to keep any settlement secret. This agreement gives Mr Yelich $20,000 for the defamation and $35,000 to keep it secret.
“As it is public money the Crown should have refused point-blank to agree to any confidentiality clause. On the face of it why would Mr Yelich want a confidentiality clause? In these cases it is usually the party paying the settlement that asks for confidentiality. It appears far more likely that it is Mr Williams and Mr Yelich who are telling the truth.
“If the Privileges Committee finds that Ms Wilson has misled parliament, as she is Attorney-General she would have to resign.
“This is an issue that raises serious constitutional issues. If the Minister has deliberately lied to parliament it is a scandal,” Mr Prebble said.