Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1429..
MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (10.31): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to move a motion of want of confidence in the Attorney-General.
MR STANHOPE: I move:
That this Assembly expresses a lack of confidence in the Attorney-General for his failure to meet his responsibilities as the First Law Officer of the Territory and Attorney-General.
Mr Speaker, one of the central tenets of our legal system is that the law be applied and executed without fear, favour or prejudice. I think we would all accept that that tenet is basic to any country professing to follow the rule of law. A very significant player in ensuring that the rule of law is executed without fear, favour or prejudice is the Attorney-General. In our case, the Attorney-General is the chief legal adviser to the ACT Government and has overall responsibility for matters relating to the legal system in the ACT.
When making decisions about whether the laws of parliament are properly observed, whether people should be prosecuted and a range of other issues going to the legal system, it is the Attorney-General, as the first law officer, who has a principal role to play. The Attorney-General is a Minister of the Government, but as a Minister he does have an identity separate to that which other Ministers have in our systems of government. The Attorney-General must on occasions separate himself, in terms of his responsibilities to the law, from his role as a politician. It is a vital and accepted part of his role as Attorney-General.
We are suggesting that the Attorney-General, Mr Humphries, in his actions in relation to Mr Bernard Collaery, counsel for the Bender family in a coronial inquest that is currently being conducted, has not fulfilled his obligations as the first law officer and as the Attorney-General; that he has allowed other considerations to affect him in his role as Attorney-General. We do not believe the Attorney-General can be said to have acted with, or to have displayed, that degree of objectivity, impartiality, that is required of him in that role.