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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 10 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 3254..


Bushfires-coronial inquest

MS MacDONALD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope. Is the Chief Minister aware of reported comments by ANU academic Hugh Selby in relation to the current coronial inquiry into the January 2003 bushfires and the concept of the separation of powers?

MR STANHOPE: Yes, I am indeed aware of Mr Selby's reported comments on this issue. Mr Selby, a highly respected academic from the Australian National University school of law, has been reported more than once on the issue. In fact, members may recall that I mentioned one of those reports during the debate in the challenge yesterday that led to the censuring of Mr Stefaniak. As long ago as 30 October last year the Canberra Times reported Mr Selby as saying:

... arguments the Government is politically interfering in the inquiry are baseless and claims that a ... separation of powers is occurring are nothing more than a red herring.

In this morning's Canberra Times there is another report of Mr Selby's comments that is worth quoting. The Canberra Times report today of the censure of Mr Stefaniak says:

Australian National University academic Hugh Selby was among the experts in coronial law who believed the Government had not threatened the independence of the judiciary, executive and legislature by testing its concerns about Mrs Doogan in the Supreme Court.

There is a reference to Mr Selby. It continues:

He said individuals and governments had a right to test a decision from a lower court in a higher court.

He went on to say:

If we start saying that some people shouldn't exercise that right and others should, then where does that leave the notion of justice to all?

I will repeat that:

If we start saying that some people shouldn't exercise that right and others should, then where does that leave the notion of justice to all?

That is what Hugh Selby, an expert in coronial law, had to say about so-called political interference. But Mr Selby had even more pointed comments to make about the suggestion that supported the notion that by joining the Supreme Court action against the coroner the government had breached the separation of powers. Again, the Canberra Times today reports Mr Selby as saying this:

Mr Selby said he believed Chief Justice Higgins's comments had been misrepresented by the Opposition.


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