Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . . Page.. 1360 ..

Legal Practitioner - Complaint by Attorney-General

MR KAINE: My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, I have been provided with information that suggests that you recently wrote to the Law Society of the ACT lodging a formal complaint, as Attorney-General, against a barrister and solicitor in the Territory. In that communication you used words like this person having a shallow disregard for the due processes of law, and that his duty should be to respect and uphold the due processes of the law and the like. Attorney, is it a fact that you wrote such a letter as first law officer of the Territory and that you did so under the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act which you personally administer, and did you lodge a formal complaint with the Law Society of the ACT against the legal counsel representing the family of Katie Bender at the hospital implosion inquiry?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, yes, I have written a complaint to the Law Society and, of course, that is a complaint under the Legal Practitioners Act. Obviously, there are no other sorts of complaints that one can generate of that kind. I hesitate to confirm the last part of Mr Kaine's question because the Legal Practitioners Act contains confidentiality provisions about complaints that are made under it and inquiries that are held under it to protect the identity of people who are being inquired into. However, I understand that the complainant has himself revealed the nature of the complaint to the ABC, and obviously also to Mr Kaine, so I think in the circumstances it would be reasonable to - - -

Mr Kaine: That is not so, Mr Speaker. That simply is not the case. I want it on the record that that is not the case.

MR SPEAKER: You will have the opportunity to explain, Mr Kaine, in due course.

MR HUMPHRIES: Well, the fact is, Mr Speaker, that the complainant has revealed the fact of the complaint to the ABC, which is interesting because it may constitute a breach of the Legal Practitioners Act. Nonetheless, yes, that is the case, Mr Kaine. I have made that complaint and it is on the basis that I consider that the conduct concerned was quite inappropriate. I made comments about the conduct at the time in the media, the conduct complained of in the media, as I recall, and I think it is an appropriate matter for the Law Society to deal with.

MR KAINE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. The Minister's response is generally in accord with information that has come to my attention, but my supplementary question is this: Minister, when you lodged that complaint against the Bender family's legal representative, in whose interests were you acting - those of the Bender family or of somebody else?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, as first law officer of the ACT, in a sense I play a number of roles. Among those roles is being the nominal head of the legal profession of the ACT. I have a vested interest therefore in making sure that the conduct of legal practitioners in the ACT is of the highest order. I consider that the conduct I complained about was not of that order and I drew the matter to the attention - - -

Mr Kaine: And your conduct is better? It is absolutely reprehensible, Attorney.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .