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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (24 November) . . Page.. 3549 ..

Wednesday, 24 November 1999


MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.


Motion of Want of Confidence

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (10.33): Mr Speaker, I move:

That this Assembly no longer has confidence in the Chief Minister, Ms Carnell, MLA.

Mr Speaker, I ask for the leave of the Assembly to speak without limitation of time.

Leave granted.

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, in many respects, my contribution to this most serious debate was written by the coroner, Mr Shane Madden, for it is Mr Madden who, in his report on the inquest into the death of Katie Bender, has so comprehensively damned the administration of the Government led by this Chief Minister. Mr Madden's scathing condemnation and the Chief Minister's failure to answer his criticisms responsibly have brought on this debate. One thing is sure, that is, that the systemic failings so clearly identified by the coroner and the Chief Minister's stubborn and arrogant refusal properly to accept responsibility for them demand a sanction that only this Assembly can deliver.

At the outset some parameters to the debate need to be set. Mr Madden's report is quite clearly written on two themes - the issue of criminality and the issue of administrative failings. At the beginning of his report, Mr Madden addressed in unequivocal terms the nature of the coronial function - that it is one of fact finding. As the coroner explained, his role was threefold: To make certain findings as to the manner and cause of death; to comment on any matter connected with the death; and to make recommendations to the Attorney-General on any matter connected with the inquest. The coroner went on to say that his role was primarily inquisitorial. It is not a method of apportioning guilt, or criminal or civil liability. These, he said, are issues for other jurisdictions.

In addressing the criminality issue, Mr Madden has discharged the first of his obligations. The coroner was required to find, if possible, the identity of any person who contributed to Katie Bender's death. Mr Madden identified certain people - I stress that the Chief Minister was not among them - and committed two for trial and made certain recommendations about others. He found explicitly:

No one can seriously attribute to Mrs Kate Carnell MLA, the Chief Minister for the ACT, personally or directly, any responsibility for or

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