Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2004 2004) . . Page.. 146 ..
a very great interest in the fact that the proceedings of the coronial inquest have been interrupted. Mr Speaker, members of the community are very angry about what has happened and we are exercising our legitimate rights as their representatives to examine and pursue those matters. The principal reasons we are here today are to turn around some of that anger and to put a stop to an unprecedented action by an attorney-general.
The community is not angry that individual citizens are out protecting their rights and using the courts, as they are entitled to do, to protect their rights. But the community is angry that the government has exercised its unwarranted power to join in that matter because it is afraid of scrutiny. The community is telling us that it believes that the government is afraid of scrutiny and we are here today trying to scrutinise the government’s actions. Your ruling, Mr Speaker, if it is maintained, will mean that you will be joining the government in closing down scrutiny of the Attorney-General.
The Attorney-General is not being scrutinised here as Jon Stanhope, member for Ginninderra. He is being scrutinised and his actions are being scrutinised as the first law officer—a role, as Mr Stefaniak has said, which is beyond the individual, beyond politics, beyond self-interest, beyond conflicts of interest.
If your rulings are maintained, you will be taking a step back to the old days when, if something was before a court, that was it, we were closed down. You will be closing us down. You will be impacting upon the entitlement of members to exercise legitimate rights for which they were elected and for which they maintain privilege in this place. You would not be making a decision that would have an impact only in this place; you would be making a decision that may have an impact in other jurisdictions, in other parliaments, in Australia.
Mr Speaker, it is not a light thing to do, but your ruling, we believe, is wrong, and it must be set aside, because you would be creating a precedent for this parliament whereby people could hide behind the fact that there is a court matter. We need to make the distinction. The sub judice rule is about unreasonable prejudice. It is to protect a proceeding from unreasonable prejudice. Today, you have to take into account who may be prejudiced by this ruling.
Will the three members of the Supreme Court who sit together to look at these matters, which for the most part we are not going into, be seriously prejudiced because the members of the ACT opposition question the motives of the Attorney-General? The real matters at heart before the Supreme Court are the rights of nine individuals. We are not discussing the rights of the nine individuals. Their rights are paramount and sacrosanct and are being upheld by the opposition. We are discussing the role of the Attorney-General. The role of the Attorney-General is a different matter and your decision today, if allowed to stand, will set an unfortunate precedent for many years to come.
That Mr Stefaniak’s motion be agreed to.
A call of the Assembly having commenced—