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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4090..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

relating to legal action being pursued by the Benders against the ACT government. But I am mindful of that, Mrs Cross, and, as much as I am happy to be, as always, open on all issues of interest to the community, there are some constraints on me in relation to answering questions in light of the sub judice rule.

It needs to be understood that the Bender family initiated at least three actions: one against the ACT government, one against Totalcare, which is an entity separate from the ACT government, and one against Project Coordination, the project managers for the project. The actions, as is always the case, are handled by each of the defendants' respective insurers. The matter is complicated by the fact that each of the defendants do not have the same insurer. Each of the defendants, of course, is legally represented. The ACT government, on instructions from me, is represented by the ACT Government Solicitor. Project Coordination and Totalcare have instructed others to represent them. The Bender family is represented by Mr Collaery.

There have been negotiations, correspondence and action in relation to these issues over a number of years. Suffice it to say, each of us would like to see matters around the tragic circumstances of Katie Bender's death brought to a conclusion that allows the Bender family, the parents and the children, solace and completion in relation to this matter.

I have had discussions with the ACT Government Solicitor, whom I instruct, about my desire to see an early conclusion of the matter. But it is not possible or appropriate for the ACT Government Solicitor to separate itself and the ACT government from the co-defendants in relation to this matter. It's fair for me to say, without revealing things that are relevant to the negotiations and the action, that the Bender family, through their counsel, Bernard Collaery, are seeking very significant compensation. There are some significant matters here. If it was a case of me just rolling up and saying, "Look, this has gone on long enough. This needs to be settled; do what it takes,"I could do that, but it would not be responsible.

One part of me wants to do that. One part of me wants to see this brought to a conclusion. It has been going on for far too long. But it simply is not, and would not be, responsible of me, as Attorney-General, to say to the ACT Government Solicitor, representing one of the three defendants in this matter, "Look, do what it takes; just fix it. Get this over and done with. Allow the Benders to move on."It's not like that. There are a whole range of legal issues involved in this. Of course, those legal issues, and some of the legal principles that are relevant to this, are, of course, affected very much by the trauma and the pain that we all know is part and parcel of this action. It is very much part of the Canberra psyche, to some extent. It is something that we are all affected by. I have to say, I, along with tens of thousands of Canberrans, cannot visit the National Museum without thinking of Katie Bender. I have yet to visit Acton Peninsula or the Australian Museum without thinking of Katie Bender and I don't think I could ever, for the rest of my time in Canberra, visit the National Museum without thinking of Katie Bender.

So that is the experience of all of us, and it is something we want to see resolved. I will conclude on this matter. The negotiations are difficult, and I don't want to intrude too much into that, other than to say that I have expressly urged on the ACT Government Solicitor whatever actions we can take to facilitate a settlement of this matter. But there


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