Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . . Page.. 1378 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
The tabling of these documents today by Mr Kaine and the motion of Mr Berry to publish them are obviously a way of being able to put them out in the public arena which would not be possible under the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act. I simply warn members about the dangerous precedent being set here of getting around legislation passed by this house by using this mechanism to publish documents which otherwise would not be legally published. If I or anybody else were to walk out there before this motion was passed and hand this document to somebody, we would be committing an offence which would be punishable by imprisonment. By doing it in this way, we avoid that onus. That may or may not be a good thing, but I think it is a bit of a slap in the face to legislation which this place has enforced, which is legislation of this place.
Mr Speaker, the other question about this matter is the role of the other party, Mr Collaery. I do not have a great brief to carry for Mr Collaery and Mr Kaine says that he has not been in contact with Mr Collaery about this matter. It is principally for the protection of Mr Collaery that the provisions have been designed. Do we know whether Mr Collaery is happy for all these allegations about him and his response to be in the public arena? That is what these provisions in the Legal Practitioners Act are designed to protect. I suspect that Mr Collaery will not mind that that is out there, but I do not know whether he will or he will not.
Mr Berry: That is not the issue.
MR HUMPHRIES: It is the issue because - - -
Mr Berry: No, it is not.
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, it is the issue because these documents are protected from public disclosure, except for what we are doing now. Without this motion it may well be an offence to hawk these documents around the media and so on outside this place. As I have said, I am not ashamed of what I have had to say about this matter, but the provisions are not there to protect me; they are there to protect the legal practitioners who are complained about. If you continue to maintain that you have not been in touch with Mr Collaery, I think you have to ask yourself the question: Is it fair to expose him in this way, to remove from him the protection which the law affords him? That would be, I think, an unfortunate precedent to set.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (3.41): I shall be very brief, Mr Speaker. I understand the point that the Attorney-General is making. I think the matter has travelled beyond that. There is an interesting issue here for us in that documents have been tabled, we all have them available to us, and they have been spoken about in this place. Simply tabling them here attracts qualified privilege in terms of our positions in relation to them. As I understand it, there would be nothing to prevent any member of this place speaking about the content of these documents and, of course, that will occur. This is a matter which will undoubtedly attract significant media and community interest, as it should. It would now not be wise in terms of the processes that are already in place for these documents not to attract privilege.