The Hon. R.I. LUCAS ( 15:50 :12 ): I refer to some extraordinary evidence that minister Koutsantonis gave to the ICAC inquiry into the Gillman land deal. That extraordinary evidence is based on the extraordinary claim that ministers and minister's officers do not make amendments to cabinet submissions that go to cabinet from their departments, and the only changes they make are grammatical. In my view not only is that claim extraordinary, it is also palpably untrue.
The context of this particular evidence is revealed on page 124 and onwards of the ICAC inquiry report. The context was that Commissioner Lander was skewering minister Koutsantonis over why the critical cabinet submission that went to cabinet did not include all of the needed information—that the Renewal SA board had previously rejected the proposed deal in relation to Gillman. The evidence is as follows with minister Koutsantonis answering:
A. Are you asking me why—why the Cabinet submission didn't contain the previous rejections and a subsequent approval of the Board?
A. I can't answer that, Commissioner. I don't know why the department didn't put that in; you'd have to speak to the people who drafted the submission.
Q. But isn't it your submission?
A. It's mine and the Premier's; yes.
I interpose there that the minister was always very quick to say, 'It wasn't just my submission; it was also the Premier's submission.' It continues with Commissioner Lander asking:
Q. Well, didn't you have to ensure that it's in there?
A. Well, that's something that the department does for me. I rely on their advice…I have carriage of it into the—into the—into the—into the Cabinet. And I rely on the agencies to draft my submissions; I don't have the expertise in my office to draft a Cabinet submission. And I rely on the advice of the department. They're the ones who give me the—the drafts and the only amendments that we make are grammatical. We don't make substantive changes to—to Cabinet submissions; we act on advice.
Q. Well, d o you question the advice if the advice is clearly inappropriate?
A. Can you please explain the question?
Q. Yes. If you receive advice in a Cabinet submission, to put to Cabinet, which you think is inappropriate?
A. That I have not previously seen?
A. So something new that's in a Cabinet submission; do I question? I may. I may wish to call the department and ask them about it. But, again, it's not my job to write the advice that I receive. My job is to receive the advice and act on it; one way or another.
Q. Quite, I understand. But in a Cabinet submission you're giving advice?
A. No, I am giving to them no that's not how.
I am not sure what that means. The minister continued:
The Cabinet submissions are drafted for you by the agencies.
Q. I understand that.
A. Not by the political office.
The extraordinary proposition that the minister there is putting to the ICAC commissioner, as I said, is untrue. It is also an interesting commentary on the minister's own staff because he said, 'I don't have the expertise in my office to draft a Cabinet submission.' I note at the time that the minister's chief of staff was Mr Rob Malinauskas. He also had four ministerial advisers: Peter Labropoulos, Tom Carrick-Smith, Nick Antonopoulos and Sarah Goodchild. Mr Rob Malinauskas has just been employed or recently employed by one of the leading mineral and energy companies in the nation in a senior executive position. So what minister Koutsantonis was saying was that Mr Malinauskas and the other four ministerial advisers did not have the expertise to even draft a cabinet submission; did not have the expertise to even question elements of a cabinet submission; all they were good for was to correct the grammar in the cabinet submission.
These people are paid between $100,000 and $150,000 a year. If that is the quality of the advice, if that is the quality of the performance of a minister no wonder this state is in serious trouble. As I said, it is just palpably untrue to say that a minister and a minister's office do not question and make changes in relation to cabinet submissions. The cabinet submission is a submission signed by the minister and, in this case, the Premier. It is a submission that they are making in terms of recommendations. They take advice and certainly they should not change facts, but they make recommendations to the cabinet. The evidence that minister Koutsantonis gave to Commissioner Lander is, as I said, not only extraordinary, but it is palpably untrue.