Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (24 March) . . Page.. 783 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
I just want to make a couple of points, if I can, Mr Speaker. I have no major problem with what Mr Berry is attempting to do. I have listened to the debate, especially the things raised by Mr Humphries and Mr Moore. Certainly, some interesting arguments were put up by them.
Ms Tucker: I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought Mr Osborne was talking to an adjournment motion and why he wanted an adjournment. Do we have to have the full debate on the issues now?
MR SPEAKER: The Assembly gave him leave to speak, Ms Tucker. It did not give him leave to speak on certain issues.
MR OSBORNE: You just explained the confusion in my mind now, Mr Speaker, about why I need the adjournment.
MR SPEAKER: Proceed, please, Mr Osborne.
MR OSBORNE: Generally, I think it is very dangerous of parliaments to pass retrospective legislation which makes illegal something that was once legal, but this is a special matter, Mr Speaker. At a time not too far in the past, during a period when there were some offences that were illegal, the statute of limitation ended and, all of a sudden, they were not illegal. I must admit to not having the same philosophical dilemma as Mr Humphries and Mr Moore.
It is an interesting situation that we find ourselves in. I have heard my name mentioned many times today in relation to correspondence and discussions that I have had with Mr Humphries. For the record once again, Mr Speaker, I was approached earlier last year by the Attorney-General, Mr Humphries, about this matter. He indicated at the time - and I think the letter that he circulated was confidential - that this issue had arisen. He did not wish at the time, I believe, to be involved in a major fight in the Assembly over it. I indicated that I was quite happy to agree to that in my advice to him and I think it was relayed through Mr Hargreaves, a member of the Justice and Community Safety Committee, that he should raise the matter with Mr Stanhope. What happened between then and, I think, about November or December of last year, I could not tell you, other than that the committee then received a letter - it may even have been early this year - in which Mr Humphries complained that we had not got back to him. I have to say, Mr Speaker, that the committee was quite disappointed with the tone of that letter.
It is unfortunate that we are now in a situation where we are faced with this piece of legislation. I do intend to look at what Mr Berry has got up. I am inclined to support it. I think the real question that we should be asking is: Why has this inquiry dragged on for so long? I am cautious of not pointing the finger or criticising anybody involved, but, for everyone involved in this situation, including the family of Katie Bender, I think it needs to be resolved sooner and should have been resolved sooner. I am quite happy for the legislation to come back in the next sitting, which is in about three weeks' time, given the urgency of the matter, but I do feel that I do need to look at what Mr Berry has put up today in the context of what Mr Humphries and Mr Moore have spoken about this afternoon. I thank Ms Tucker for her tolerance.