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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 1801..


Ms Follett: Mr Speaker, may I offer you the benefit of my understanding of the standing orders. They are directed at the person asking the question. Nobody is saying that the answer was out of order. The question was out of order. That is our contention. On any reading of the standing orders, that position would have to be upheld. I think you will find that I am right, Mr Speaker.

Discrimination Proceedings

MR CONNOLLY: I actually have a question, Mr Speaker. My question is addressed to Mr Stefaniak as Minister for Education. You would be aware, Minister, that last year the then ACT Discrimination Commissioner, Professor Alston, found that certain practices of ACT agencies, including Community Services and Education, were discriminatory. You would also, I assume, be aware of the very public statements that I made, as then Health Minister and Attorney-General, that the Government would not appeal that finding of discriminatory practice and would, in fact, move to implement the decision. That statement that we would not appeal the decision, I recall, was loudly applauded by the then Opposition Leader, now Chief Minister, Mrs Carnell. Why, then, is this Liberal Government now seeking, in proceedings before another tribunal, to reopen the question of whether a family suffered discrimination, thus putting the family concerned to additional stress and financial hardship?

MR STEFANIAK: Thank you, Mr Connolly, for the question. Mr Speaker, firstly, I commend Mr Connolly for seeking intervention in the Labor Party. I think that is the latest development in the euthanasia saga.

In relation to your question, Mr Connolly, I am not quite sure when the decision you refer to came down. This Government certainly accepted the decision, as your Government did, and the policy continued. However, I understand that the party who initially took the action did not like the part of the decision in relation to no damages being awarded and accordingly appealed against that. That appeal is currently before the AAT. The ACT Government Solicitor is handling the matter professionally for the department and will do what is necessary as the ACT Government's legal representative. The Government did not bring the appeal. This Government abided by the decision, as did your Government.

MR CONNOLLY: I ask a supplementary question. I have no difficulty with the Government litigating the issue of damages and defending the Territory's position in relation to damages, but my understanding is that the question of whether there had been discrimination - we said that we would not appeal against the decision but would accept it and Mrs Carnell said that we were correct in accepting it - is being reopened. Can you give an assurance to this Assembly that you, or lawyers acting on behalf of you, will not reopen the question of discrimination but will confine any appeal to the question of damages?

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Connolly, you would have some experience of appeals and the law. In going back and working out such things as the quantum or lack of quantum of damages certain issues would have to be looked at. That is appropriate. I imagine that the Government Solicitor will be just doing his job in relation to that.


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