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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1029 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

As I said, Mr Speaker, I have given this much thought and have consulted quite extensively with people I trust, not only within the legal profession but also without, and I think that there is overwhelming support for what Mr Berry is attempting to do. I think the community expects us to do all that we can to see that people who were responsible for this tragic event, no matter how minor the part they played, are brought before the courts. I apologise to members for adjourning this debate last month. I did feel that I needed to consult a little bit further. As I said, I will be supporting the legislation. I understand that the Government will oppose it. I think that this is a special case and I think it is something that all of us have approached with much thought. I think the vote will be quite close, but I think this legislation is a fair result.

MR BERRY (10.49), in reply: I thank members for their contribution to the debate. I note in particular Mr Osborne's reference to the hospital implosion and the impact that that has had on the ACT community. This Bill arises because of that and the unexpectedly lengthy inquiry which has followed. But it could just as well have arisen in respect of another event had there been a lengthy inquiry. In fact the Bill will forever ensure that lengthy inquiries do not inhibit the possibility of a prosecution being pursued under the pieces of legislation which I have set out to amend - that is, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Dangerous Goods Act.

Mr Speaker, we can make no assumptions about the outcome of the coronial inquiry, and neither should we, so I make no comment in respect of that. But it is, I think, a fair comment to make that no-one should be able to extend the debate in these inquiries so as to avoid prosecution, and nobody should escape notice under relevant legislation because of the failure of the legislation to allow an adequate time for a prosecution to be pursued. Those are the bases for the amendments which I have put forward to the pieces of legislation which are before you today.

Mr Speaker, this need not have happened. This was a matter that came to notice a long time ago. I trust that members will not be bored by having this repeated, but I think it needs to be repeated in my concluding remarks. It was a matter that need not have occurred. It was a matter that came to the Government's notice in time for the element of retrospectivity contained in the amendments to be avoided. In a most unsatisfactory way it has been left to the Assembly to pick up the job that the Government failed to deal with.

That is in the past. I think we have to move on now and make sure that the legislation is made effective. But I think this should serve as a message to the Government, and in particular to the Attorney-General, that these matters should not go unnoticed in the future. It is quite an unsatisfactory response from the Government, in my view.

Mr Speaker, I need to say no more in relation to this legislation. I thank those members who have risen to support it, and I look forward to its speedy passage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

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