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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 August 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2806 ..


MR SPEAKER: I remind you of my comments yesterday in relation to this matter.

MR STEFANIAK: Thank you, Mr Speaker. This motion calls on the Attorney-General to rule out two things: firstly, initiating or joining any further appeals against the coronial inquest into the 2003 fires; and, secondly, the territory funding the legal costs of any further appeals against the coronial inquest into the 2003 bushfires that may be taken by individuals.

This coronial inquest offered the people most affected by the fires a means of understanding why they were injured or why they lost everything they possessed. People affected want to know why the fire was not stopped when it first started and then, fundamentally, why they got no warning until it was too late. The talk amongst people who are not particularly politically affiliated is that there is a smell emanating from this government. It is not yet a stench, but people have their suspicions. They talk of cover-ups. And who can blame them! The Chief Minister does have an opportunity now to ensure that this coronial inquest continues and continues through to its fruition so that answers to the questions people want answered are actually given.

I would think the Chief Minister would not have too much of a problem with the first part of this motion, given what he has said. He said yesterday that the ACT government would not appeal against the Supreme Court’s ruling on its application to have the coroner disqualified. I quote from his media release:

I look forward to the speedy resumption of the inquest and the finalisation of the Coroner’s hearing ... I indicated on the day the decision was handed down that it was extremely unlikely that the Territory would exercise its right to appeal. I can now announce that no appeal will be lodged.

I hope that he will continue with that in terms of the remainder of this inquest. I would hope that there would be no difficulty in Mr Stanhope’s at least accepting the first part of this motion. I am happy to have this motion divided if there are any problems in relation to that. I would certainly expect that he would also support the second part of this motion. I will come to that later.

Mr Stanhope still seems to be unable to accept the Supreme Court’s decision. He still talks about some legal advice he has got saying, “No, it’s wrong; you can appeal further.” Yet he has stated that he has decided that it would not be in the interests of Canberra’s citizens to have the process drawn out any further. Hopefully, he will support at least part of this motion.

It may be of concern—he might support the second part—that he stressed the decision not to appeal applied only to the territory and that the other plaintiffs could reach their own decisions based on their own independent legal advice. That is fine as far as it goes. Of course that is the situation. The question is, though: should the government rule out the need to fund anyone else’s appeals? Remember, any further appeals go to the High Court. We are calling on him to rule that out. There is very good reason why he should do so.


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