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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2378 ..

Legal Practitioner - Complaint by Attorney-General

MR KAINE: My question is to the Attorney-General and de facto Chief Minister, Mr Humphries. Mr Humphries, about three months ago - in fact, it was on 5 May - you acknowledged in answer to a question that you had lodged a complaint with the Law Society about the behaviour of a practising barrister in this town. Has there been any resolution of that matter yet?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I thank Mr Kaine for that question. Yes, that has been resolved, as Mr Kaine no doubt is aware. He indicated on the previous occasion that he had not had any contact with the particular solicitor concerned, but I suspect that that is not the case. The Law Society has resolved not to uphold the complaint. I am disappointed in that fact. I maintain that the matter is one of some concern and seriousness to the Government, and certainly to me personally. I hope that the practice of solicitors going out and making comments of that kind in the context of particular claims that their clients may or may not be bringing is not a practice which remains or which becomes widespread in this community. My firm view is that that would be a most unfortunate state of affairs.

MR KAINE: I have a supplementary question. In your earlier answer to the question you claimed that there was some level of confidentiality about this because it was the Law Society. Is it not a fact, Attorney, that when you lodged your complaint you did not do it as a private citizen; you did it as the first law officer and Attorney-General of the Territory? Would you not agree that in so doing you in fact put the matter in the public arena, whether the Law Society operates with rules of confidentiality or not?

MR HUMPHRIES: No, Mr Speaker, because complaints that I or anybody else make are dealt with confidentially, and there is no reason that anything that I complain of to the Law Society should become evident to anybody except the Law Society and presumably the complainant. If a person such as, let us say, the complainant chooses to give, let us say, a member of the Assembly information about that matter in breach of the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act requiring confidentiality, then that is a matter for the consciences of the practitioner and the hypothetical member of the Legislative Assembly. The fact that the Attorney-General makes a complaint is no reason to cause the matter to be public, any more than a private citizen making the same sort of complaint.

Canberra International Dragway

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Urban Services and it relates to his failure to make the necessary declarations for Canberra International Dragway to be re-opened. Will the Minister acknowledge that the legal advice from the Australian Government Solicitor dated from 1995, which was the subject of some media coverage last week and obtained under freedom of information by the Canberra International Dragway, confirms that, for the purposes of the Commonwealth, the Territory, and therefore the Minister, has the power to act on its behalf in relation to declarations to allow the Canberra International Dragway to have a new lease?

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