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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 May 1995) . . Page.. 544 ..


MR CONNOLLY: Just by way of a supplementary question, given that extraordinary answer, I ask: Will the Chief Minister and/or the Attorney-General give an assurance that the ACT Chief Solicitor will not be present and will take no part at all when merits are being discussed? My concern is that a conciliation hearing is an attempt to settle merits of a matter, and I am deeply disturbed to learn that the chief law officer, under the Attorney, the ACT Chief Solicitor - because I understand that it was Mr Peedom - is present in a situation where the merits of a matter involving the Deputy Chief Minister are being discussed.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, may I take that supplementary question? I know that it is not usual to do this. My advice is that the procedure being adopted in this case is entirely appropriate and proper. The decision to do this was initiated by the Government Solicitor's Office, not by any member of the Government, and the steps that will be followed will be entirely appropriate in terms of the procedure in such hearings. As the Chief Minister has indicated, we take the view that this is a matter on which the Government ought to be very much a creature of advice, and we have taken advice on this subject at each stage. The decision to appear at the hearing was not one made at the - - -

Mr Connolly: You previously said that there is no Government involvement in the defence, and now we learn that the Chief Solicitor is present.

MR HUMPHRIES: No. As the Chief Minister has indicated, the fact of the matter is that the Government is potentially a party to the proceedings because, technically, the Government was the employer of Ms Marshall.

Mr Connolly: So, the Government could be paying for the defence?

MR HUMPHRIES: So, the Government, unfortunately, does have the capacity to be entangled in the proceedings - not through any choice of its own. I speak on behalf of the Government here. However, the fact is that it was joined in proceedings. The decision to join the Government as a party to these proceedings was not made by the Government; it was made by the commissioner. That being the case, certain things follow from the fact that the Government has to appear at certain cases. Mr Connolly would be aware that there is the small matter of contempt in not appearing at hearings to which you are a party. It is entirely appropriate for the Government to be involved at that stage. However, that role is minimal, and I can indicate to the Assembly that the role that it will be playing in that process will be as minimal as possible in line with its obligations to the proceedings under the Discrimination Act.


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