Page 329 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 1991

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Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Speaker's Ruling

MR SPEAKER: On Tuesday evening Mr Moore sought leave to table certain documents in the Assembly. I ruled that he could not do so on the basis that they were sub judice and, after a request from Mr Moore, later undertook to reconsider the matter.

The sub judice convention is summarised at pages 491 to 495 of House of Representatives Practice. A summary of the convention is this: Subject to the right to legislate on any matter, those matters awaiting adjudication in a court of law should not be brought forward in debate, motions or questions.

The sub judice convention is a practice, not a law. It is self-imposed and by applying this restriction legislatures not only prevent their own deliberations from prejudicing the course of justice, but also prevent reports of their proceedings from being used to do so. This is my major concern in this case. The Chair's discretion in these matters must be considered against the right and duty of the Assembly to debate matters of public interest. The question of sub judice is certainly a difficult one, and it is clear that differing views can be and are held.

The matter that is the subject of the documents is banking and the actions of one bank. The two major documents are advices from a law firm to Westpac Banking Corporation. I believe that these are the same documents which have been referred to in the media recently, and which the President of the Senate ruled upon on Tuesday evening. The documents are the subject of several interlocutory injunctions preventing their publication by the media.

I have considered the issues involved and have concluded that the disclosure of these documents to the Assembly and their subsequent publication elsewhere could prejudice one of the parties before the courts. I do not make this ruling lightly. I have balanced the rights of the Assembly and the public interest against the interests of justice and at this stage in the legal proceedings I do not believe that disclosure of the contents of the documents in the Assembly at this time would be prudent. I therefore confirm my earlier ruling that the documents are not to be tabled nor their contents disclosed in the Assembly.

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