Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2004 2004) . . Page.. 148 ..
This is about the actions of the government. It has been using a delay, delay, delay approach, which is standard operating practice for the government. It is now taking the next line of muddying the waters and shooting the messengers so that whenever we get some sort of result out of the coronial inquest the government can use the line that this whole process has been flawed. Let’s face it: that is what it is about. It is about this government protecting itself.
We should go to what the Chief Minister has said about the role of the Attorney-General and whom the Attorney-General is there to protect. I will just use the last of the quote Mr Stefaniak used in question time yesterday. He said that Mr Stanhope stated on 6 May 1999:
The Attorney-General must on occasions separate himself, in terms of his responsibilities to the law, from his role as a politician.
Mr Stanhope sets the standard here. The politician does not come first: the Attorney-General and his role in relation to the law must come first; so it is a vital and accepted part of his role as Attorney-General. I will read it again:
The Attorney-General must on occasions separate himself, in terms of his responsibilities to the law, from his role as a politician. It is a vital and accepted part of his role as Attorney-General.
Yesterday, we had confirmation that the Attorney-General does not believe that any longer. In answer to a question from Mr Seselja, Mr Stanhope said:
The Attorney-General, as the first law officer, has essentially a dual responsibility. The Attorney-General is also a politician. I am a politician; I am a first law officer … I am the Attorney-General, I am a politician and I act in the interests of the government …
I thought the Attorney-General acted in the interests of the people of the ACT, but apparently the role of the Attorney-General now is simply to protect the government. He is seeking now to put his role as a politician first. Perhaps the Chief Minister should take his own advice of 1999 that sometimes, if he is true to the job, he must put himself above his role as a politician.
I would like to quote further from what Mr Stanhope said in that debate on 6 May 1999. It is quite ironic that he would have said what I am about to quote because it is absolutely applicable to his behaviour here and it was not applicable to Mr Humphries when Mr Stanhope first made this comment. The current Chief Minister said:
We come to the nub of the matter here, Mr Speaker. In doing so, the attorney must be seen to be acting at arm’s length and in a completely and totally disinterested manner. We admit that that will be difficult where some of the issues reported to him could well relate to adverse findings against some arm of government, for instance, or perhaps against some government employees—who knows? The point of it is that there must be a well-founded and grounded perception in the community that the attorney is acting in such a manner; that he is acting at complete arm’s length; that he is acting in a totally disinterested way.