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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 4243..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

comments of the Premier of New South Wales as "an evil". The speech we have just heard by Mr Pratt on behalf of the Liberal Party bears no comparison to the bland comment of the Premier of New South Wales in relation to a matter before an inquiry to be conducted by a body essentially of the same order or sort as the Coroners Court-almost identical; not judicial, but quasi-judicial, independent inquiries.

In New South Wales, in the view and the mind of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the comment of the Premier of New South Wales, "an apparent evil", was sufficient for the inquiry to call before it, to answer a possible contempt, the Premier of New South Wales. What he said goes in no way to match what we have just heard-an unashamed, unabashed attempt by the Liberal Party of the ACT to bring pressure to bear on the coroner of the ACT.

I pose the question: what if the coroner were now to find, at the completion of her inquiry, or to make findings of the order just put on the table in this place by Mr Pratt? Who can say that her findings, if they bear an eerie similarity to the nonsense that we have just heard sprouted by the Liberal Party-

Mr Smyth: Sprouted by you.

MR STANHOPE: No, the nonsense sprouted by the Liberal Party-can be said not to have been as a result of the influence or the pressure that was brought to bear by the Liberal Party?

This is a genuine concern of mine and a concern of direct relevance to the Liberal Party's motion. It is extremely likely that Mr Pratt, in moving this motion which relates to issues yet to be determined by a judicial officer in the coronial inquiry, could reasonably be perceived as intending to place pressure on the coroner to reach conclusions which suit his partisan, political interests. There is no other conclusion to be drawn. This Assembly should not pre-empt the coroner's findings.

I have expressed, over the course of the last year, a serious concern about the repetitive questions asked of me in relation to a matter being heard before the Coroners Court in relation to the bushfire. I believe that this matter must be pursued in the next Assembly. The need for a change to our standing orders to actually determine the questions in relation to a judicial process must be included within the sub judice rule. This is a court; we are talking here about an inquiry before a judicial officer in a court and we should give serious consideration to treating it as actually meeting the sub judice rule.

I have said repeatedly in the house that the separation of powers is not a mere slogan. The separation of powers has real meaning. In this instance it requires us as legislators to respect the role of an independent judicial officer undertaking an inquiry according to law. This motion should never have been moved. It certainly should not be debated if we take seriously the doctrine of the separation of powers. I would urge the Leader of the Opposition to show some leadership of his party and respect both this institution and the court.

I conclude on this point: this motion is highly offensive. It is highly offensive to my civil liberties, to my right to privacy, to the right to privacy of all of us. The question is: where exactly were you on the evening? Why were you unable to take telephone calls? The


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