ACT member defends his email actions in Legislative Assembly

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James Milligan

AN ALLEGED misuse of an email list of constituents for personal financial gain has come under the spotlight inside the ACT Legislative Assembly.

The actions of Liberal party MLA James Milligan was brought into question after a referral motion was passed on Thursday evening (May 13).

He was accused of breaking privacy standards, based on exploiting his political standing, to promote his printing business.

Mr Milligan, who declared his pecuniary interest entering the assembly back in 2016, lost his seat four years later but was recalled months later on a voter countback after Liberal leader Alistair Coe resigned his position and quit ACT politics.

Yerrabi voters on the email list were reminded of Mr Milligan’s business after parting words thanking the support after his defeated campaign.

“I am in the process of re-establishing my business JM Publishing, which specialises in publishing, print, design and business consultancy,” the email from Mr Milligan said.

“As such if you have any projects or referrals that you think may benefit from affordable, efficient and expert business support, please do not hesitate to put them in touch with JM Publishing.”

The mailing list sent to potential printing clients has since been said to be different to a list compiled from the public interested in Mr Milligan’s campaign off the electoral roll.

Mr Milligan referred the public sector matter to the Standards Commissioner over whether he warranted an investigation so to clear his name.

He may not have breached the electoral act over the size of his small business.

But a former Democrats candidate with links to the Greens has also referred the matter to the Information Commissioner over the content of the email.

Labor MLA Joy Burch moved a referral motion to be debated over the alleged misuse of protected information on the floor.

Mr Burch had sat on the resolution overnight, unsure whether the Standards Commissioner role had “scope or ability” to address the matter when Mr Milligan was no longer a member of the assembly at the time of the correspondence.

“This is not in any way an action to influence the process that may be underway,” Ms Burch said.

The Speaker of the House felt obligated to move the motion to an independent arbitrator.

But senior Liberal MLA James Hanson claimed the debate was “prejudicing” an independent investigation and preventing “due process” take place.

Mr Hanson was forced to withdrawal a number of remarks directed over the motivation of Ms Burch’s motion that the assistant Speaker of the House, Michael Pedderson, considered “highly disorderly”.

The ACT opposition disputed that “protected information” referred to Mr Hanson’s emails, and not the electorate roll or the electorate act.

Mr Milligan did not make an obligatory statement immediately after the motion was passed to explain his actions to the assembly.

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