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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 March 2010) . . Page.. 1325 ..


MR SPEAKER: Thank you for the point of order, Mr Corbell. I think, though, that the point Mr Seselja makes about the necessity of having some public discourse, particularly in a matter that could take a number of years is a cogent one. Mr Smyth, I would ask you to take some care in not necessarily drawing conclusions or commenting on specific pieces of evidence. But I think the broad matter is one that warrants discussion in the Assembly.

MR SMYTH: I am very aware of that issue, Mr Speaker, and I thank you for your ruling, because this bill, of course, was in the public realm in August last year and it is substantially the same. But I thank you for your ruling.

The hearing was told by the lawyer representing the ACT government that there was no legal duty of care placed on the government of the day to control fuel loads.

Mr Corbell: On a point of order, Mr Speaker, you have just advised Mr Smyth not to draw particular references from particular pieces of evidence that are currently—

MR SMYTH: No, he said “conclusions”.

Mr Corbell: Or conclusions from that evidence. Mr Smyth has said that this is worrying, that the government is making, in its representations in the court about its legal duty of care—

Mr Seselja: It’s in the public realm.

Mr Corbell: He was alluding directly to what is a critical issue in this court matter, which is whether or not there is a legal duty of care. That is the heart of this matter. Mr Smyth is referring to particular pieces of evidence currently being led in relation to that matter. You have just instructed Mr Smyth that he should not do so, and he is doing so. So can you call him to order. Alternatively, Mr Speaker, are you now ruling that it is quite okay for members to comment freely in this place on matters that are currently the subject of detailed legal hearings?

Mr Seselja: Mr Speaker, on the point of order, Mr Smyth is setting some context. He is not drawing conclusions. An argument has been put up, it is in the public domain and it is relevant to refer to that argument because it is relevant to the legislation that is being put forward. If Mr Corbell believes that we should be gagged in this place from speaking about things which are openly discussed in the public domain then we will have less freedom of speech in this chamber than exists in the broader community. That is not what a parliament is meant to be. You have ruled, and Mr Smyth is allowed to set some context. He is not going to litigate the case in this place, which is what the sub judice rule is about. He is setting some context for his legislation. You actually, Mr Speaker, allowed him to do that; he has not had the chance to get two more words out of his mouth before Mr Corbell is again objecting. I would ask you to allow Mr Smyth to go on. He has been asked to be careful, he is being careful and he should be allowed to proceed.

Mr Corbell: On the point of order, Mr Speaker, Mr Smyth is litigating the case. He is referring to specific pieces of evidence; he is arguing why that is flawed and why his


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