Flood Inquiry: Document stoush resolved as Premier Anna Bligh steps in
Water Utilities Minister Stephen Robertson's claim he could not immediately hand over certain documents to the floods inquiry has been shattered after a meeting with top lawyers.
Premier Anna Bligh yesterday moved to defuse the fallout from Mr Robertson's testimony to the inquiry on Monday, when he said he was unable to waive parliamentary privilege on requested briefing notes.
Ms Bligh said while it was true that parliamentary privilege applied to the documents, legal advisers agreed Mr Robertson could hand over the papers and then seek parliamentary approval retrospectively.
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The issue was resolved at a meeting between Ms Bligh and the Solicitor General, Crown Law representatives and the Clerk of the Parliament yesterday.
"I'm pleased this matter has been resolved quickly," she said in a statement announcing the documents would be handed over yesterday.
"It's imperative that no stone is left unturned and that the commission is provided with everything it requires."
As the first witness to be called to the floods inquiry on Monday, Mr Robertson came under pressure from counsel assisting the inquiry Peter Callaghan, SC, for not handing over parliamentary briefing notes regarding the Wivenhoe Dam full supply level.
"The inability to tender those documents is not via a reluctance on my part," Mr Robertson told Mr Callaghan during questioning.
"The advice that has been provided to me, and I believe to you as well, is that parliamentary privilege is something that I can't waive. In fact, neither can the Premier.
"As I understand it, the only – it can only be waived by a specific motion of Parliament. So, I would not like you to think in any way I have been deliberately obstructive in this regard."
Mr Robertson was relying on advice from the Crown Law Office, which sent a letter about the issue to the inquiry on Friday.
On Monday afternoon, Ms Bligh vowed to move a motion at the next sitting of State Parliament in May allowing the documents to be released.
Yesterday she said such a motion could not be passed last week because the government was still waiting on legal advice, which arrived on Friday.
However, Ms Bligh later said she had called the urgent meeting with legal and parliamentary officials to "get this resolved as soon as possible".