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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2004 2004) . . Page.. 183 ..


MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (4.04): Mr Speaker, it is unfortunate that we are here today, nearly two years after the January 2003 bushfires. and the coronial inquest has not yet been completed. I think that some of this responsibility must rest with the government who failed to fully understand the representational needs of various parties. I’d like to just reiterate what the Leader of the Opposition has said: the government, through its actions, has sought to delay and to muddy the waters and to shoot the messenger.

The Chief Minister gave an interesting response yesterday to a question regarding his unprecedented actions. Most of his response was about irrelevant matters, but he did make one pertinent point. The Chief Minister said that it is important that justice not only be done but be seen to be done and that it be seen to be done according to some very strict principles and protocols. Mr Speaker, the perception that justice be done does go to the heart of the matter. That’s what Mr Stanhope was speaking about yesterday and that really does go to the heart of the matter. It’s a crucial principle that the community must have confidence in the process. Mr Stanhope has been making the point over and over that that is what he is doing.

I would put it to the Assembly, Mr Speaker, that in this circumstance it can’t be seen to be done. We have a person, who potentially faces an adverse finding and who is also charged with protecting the legal system, making a decision to seek to have this process, the coronial process, shut down. At least there is a serious perception—any reasonable person would look at that and say, “Hey, this isn’t quite right; this person who could have an adverse finding against them is also the person who is meant to be protecting the legal system, is meant to be upholding due process, and is the same person who’s now moving to shut down the process.” So, I would contend that this does go to the heart of the matter: justice needs to be seen to be done and in this situation it is not. The community needs to have confidence in these processes.

What if Kate Carnell had tried to do the same thing in the same situation? What if Kate Carnell had been Attorney-General at the same time? You would have heard the howls of disapproval from the opposition if Mrs Carnell had tried to shut down the inquest into the death of Katie Bender. The same principle applies here.

Mr Quinlan: What if she wasn’t getting a fair hearing?

MR SESELJA: Yes, I know. So I make the point that, if Mrs Carnell had tried to do that, it would rightfully have been condemned. But that’s not what happened. Yet that is what’s happening here. We have got scrutiny of the government in a coronial inquest and they are seeking to shut it down. It’s inappropriate.

There is a pattern developing here, Mr Speaker, of shutting down debate and scrutiny; we have seen a gag order on the length of speeches, committee appointments which ensure the busiest areas of government are scrutinised by members of the government; 6.00 pm adjournments; and now we have the government hiding behind the sub judice rule. We have the Attorney-General now seeking to shut down a coronial inquest. There is a pattern here: they don’t want scrutiny; this government does not like scrutiny; it’s uncomfortable; it’s uncomfortable to have scrutiny; they didn’t like the scrutiny of the coronial inquest; now they don’t like scrutiny of the Assembly and so it’s being shut down. It shouldn’t happen.


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