Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 4 Hansard (24 March) . . Page.. 1327..
Mr Corbell (continuing):
matter is set down for eight or 12 weeks—not forever; for eight or 12 weeks. I do not see why Mr Smyth needs to go to the specifics of that hearing to present his bill. It is not simply a case of potentially jeopardising the court's hearing of the matter; it is also about respecting the fact that it is the court that is dealing with this matter, not the legislature.
Mr Seselja: Mr Speaker, if I could respond, Mr Corbell needs to make the case as to why a member should be shut down. And the key—
Mr Corbell: I am just asking him to respect the conventions.
Mr Seselja: Hang on; you have had your say. He has to make the case as to why a member should be shut down. Sub judice is about whether proceedings will be prejudiced. Mr Corbell cannot argue that, by mentioning in passing what is going on, somehow the judges of the Supreme Court will be influenced or therefore the case will be prejudiced. He has the onus to make that case. He clearly has not made it. You have a discretion, Mr Speaker, and I put it to you that your discretion and your earlier ruling should be to allow some latitude because, if you do not, on a whole range of issues, we will simply be unable to have debates in this place because there may be legal proceedings going on. We as a parliament have a duty to discuss these issues. It is nonsense to suggest that judges of the Supreme Court are going to be prejudiced because of a speech in this place which is reasoned and which makes mention of these proceedings. I would ask you to rule in Mr Smyth's favour.
MR SPEAKER: With regard to your original question at the start of this point of order discussion, Mr Seselja, the further observation I was trying to make to Mr Smyth was that I have given him some latitude. I was just concerned that we were starting to reach a point where Mr Smyth was using the current proceedings to justify his legislation. I think that we can draw a careful line there. I think your point about the Companion to this place speaks to three main components of the sub judice rule—namely, that proceedings in the courts are not prejudiced, that the legislature does not undermine public respect for the courts, and the principle of comity. I think at this stage Mr Smyth has not crossed any of those three principles. My observation was simply to ask Mr Smyth to exercise some care with regard to those three principles.
MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I am endeavouring to do that. I thank you for your ruling. I could have got up and read the transcript; I could read the Canberra Times article which clearly restated what has been stated in the court, but I will not go there. People know of my longstanding interest in this matter. The fact that I had an almost identical bill in this place in August last year before the last fire season means it would not be unexpected that I would bring a bill back in the same way.
Things have been said that I will not go to. I will exercise care in dealing with these statements because the hearings are far from complete. I have some personal opinions on what is being led; I will not go to those either. It is most appropriate that we wait at least until the hearing currently before the Chief Justice has been completed.
But, despite the tenderness of the minister, and with respect to your ruling, it is important that the public understand what it is the government understand their duty