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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 August 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2835 ..


blame everyone else. If Mr Stanhope really cared, he would not have tried to cause such significant delay in the finalisation of the process.

Mr Stanhope spoke at length in his speech today about the need to give support to public servants, although yesterday on the radio I think he was referring to them as nine firefighters. So I am not sure exactly what their status is. I certainly do not have any quarrel with supporting public servants, protecting them in legal action and giving them reasonable support. The question becomes: how far does that extend? Is every public servant who is involved with legal proceedings entitled to appeal all the way to the High Court? I would say no.

It seems that that is what Mr Quinlan was suggesting yesterday. So the new principle according to Mr Quinlan is that whenever public servants are involved in legal proceedings they should always be able to go to the High Court and that we should give the fullest support always. We have to draw the line somewhere, and I would suggest that, after a full bench hearing of the Supreme Court comprehensively rejected the arguments put forward, that would be a good place for the public purse to draw the line, to allow closure and for the public interest of bushfire victims getting closure to be put ahead of other considerations.

Another point made by the Attorney-General in his speech is the issue of releasing legal advice. As I flagged, my amendment relates to this. On radio yesterday the Attorney-General was asked by Ross Solly whether he would be tabling his legal advice. He said that he would not because legal advice is privileged, and he repeated this in the chamber today. I will come back to that later. One needs to be very wary of this government when it attempts to hide behind legal and parliamentary conventions, or when it attempts to put its spin on legal principles.

In the recent past we have seen a few examples. The government hid behind the sub judice rule to avoid scrutiny in its attempts to shut down the coronial inquest. The opposition argued that this presented a conflict of interest, and it was comprehensively rejected by the Supreme Court. Without getting into detail on that debate on sub judice, it is still our contention that the use of the sub judice rule in recent times in this place has been unwarranted. It has been used by the government in quite an inappropriate way to avoid scrutiny.

MR SPEAKER: Order! You are reflecting on my ruling. That is just not permitted. You are entitled at any time once I have made a ruling to move dissent, but it is disorderly to reflect continually on it. So discontinue, please.

MR SESELJA: The issue that stood out was not in relation to your ruling but in relation to the apparent misunderstanding. This goes to my point about being very careful when the government talks about legal principles. We should not necessarily accept it at face value. When we were having that debate Mr Stanhope said that Mr Smyth had breached the sub judice rule on radio. He said, “He breached the sub judice rule on radio.” As everyone knows and as has subsequently been pointed out, one cannot breach the sub judice rule on radio. Sub judice is a principle that exists within the chamber, within houses of parliament, and it cannot be breached on radio. That is one area where I think the Attorney-General has displayed a misunderstanding of the law. So, when he spouts a


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