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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1431..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

a party to the inquest - as is the ACT Government - a party who one might suggest has a completely different interest in the potential outcomes of the inquest than does the ACT Government. That is a fair suggestion.

One therefore must ask about the apparent actions of the Attorney and the actions of his staff. We are all accepting, as we are entitled to accept, that the actions of Mr Humphries' staff are his actions; that they were taken either with his approval or under his direction. That is an assumption that we are entitled to make and have made and will continue to make. We must ask whether or not we can justifiably stand here and view his actions as the actions of a completely, totally disinterested individual. I suggest that we cannot.

Let us start with Mr Humphries' complaint to the Law Society. The Attorney might inform us whether or not this is something that he regularly does. I would be interested to hear Mr Humphries' response to this issue on how many occasions the Attorney has, of his own volition, lodged a complaint to the Law Society in a matter in which the ACT Government is interested. That would be of interest to us. We look at the complaint, we look at the nature of the complaint and we look at the time of the complaint. The complaint arose out of public comments made by Mr Collaery in relation to the victims of crime legislation last November, a matter on which any member of the public has a legitimate right to enter the public debate. As Mr Collaery, an ex-politician and a senior and respected member of the local legal profession - - -

Mr Humphries: Huh!

MR STANHOPE: As he had a right to do, he entered the debate, as did many others. Mr Humphries scoffs at my description of Mr Collaery as a senior and respected member of the legal profession. He shows his attitude to Mr Collaery.

I think this is the nub of the matter, and this is an aspect of this issue that does disturb me. It was suggested to me on the radio this morning - and I have to say and confess that it set me back - that this whole issue arises out of some "relationship", to repeat the euphemistic word used, that exists as a result of bad blood that existed in the Alliance Government between Mr Kaine, Mr Humphries and Mr Collaery. That was news to me. I was not aware of that. The implicit suggestion in the question to me was that Mr Humphries' actions might be viewed simply as a matter of a politician settling an old score, something of a vendetta. This was an issue I was not aware of, but it concerns me greatly that there is even a perception within the press in Canberra that Mr Humphries, as Attorney-General, is using his office of Attorney-General in order to settle some old political score against counsel in the most significant matter to come before a coroner for many years. We have to reflect on that. Is that what this is? If it is, of course the Attorney is damned perhaps all the more.

We look at that complaint that was made in November. It is about whether or not Mr Collaery, by entering a debate on the victims of crime legislation, in some way pre-empted the coroner's findings, in some way suggested that there would be findings of criminality or that there was guilt to be laid. We look at the language that Mr Humphries employed, as Attorney-General, in his complaint to the Law Society. He used language such as:

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.