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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 252 ..

Canberra Hospital implosion-inquiry

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mr Kaine proposing that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion:

The need for the Government to reconvene immediately the inquiry under the Inquiries Act into the failed Canberra Hospital implosion.

MR KAINE (3.26): Mr Speaker, I do not regularly propose matters of public importance in this place because, without in any way seeking to denigrate the efforts of other members, it is my strong belief that debate on MPIs should be reserved for matters that truly are of the utmost importance and not just passing whims of the moment. But I submit that the issue at hand today is just such a matter of utmost importance in the minds of the public.

Even if I had the time available, it is not necessary for me to describe once again the terrible events of Sunday 13 July 1997. However, it is a matter of dismay to me, and I imagine to very many other Canberrans, that when people elsewhere in Australia and perhaps even around the world think about our city, what immediately comes to mind are those television images of the bungled implosion which could have been funny had they not been so tragic.

Mr Speaker, on 4 November 1999, nearly a year after the completion of months of hearings before him, coroner Madden presented his findings and recommendations arising out of the inquest into the death of Katie Bender in the bungled Canberra Hospital implosion. Following this, two individuals were committed to stand trial on very serious criminal charges. As we now know, a week ago the Director of Public Prosecutions, in his wisdom, decided to drop the last of these serious criminal charges and to proceed only with offences under the OH&S act. It is noteworthy that no reasons have been given publicly for this decision. We do not know why the DPP has decided not to proceed, and we may never know because the response from the DPP was effectively: "No correspondence will be entered into."

What this means, Mr Speaker, is that two of the individuals most closely connected with the implosion-that is, the contractor who set the explosives and another contractor who supervised the demolitions man-both of whom were excused from giving evidence during the inquest, have never been given the opportunity to tell their side of the story, under oath, about what occurred on that fateful day.

Almost unbelievably, the net result of two years of this activity is that while incompetence, mismanagement and ignorance at high levels and low were clearly demonstrated, no-one has been identified as having any responsibility for the tragic outcome. Mr Speaker, I do not think we can leave it at that. Indeed, people who have suffered enormous trauma are not even entitled to compensation under the victims of crime legislation. The government ensured this when it amended the legislation at the end of 1999 to specifically exclude them. So there are many uncertainties in the minds of many people about the present position and the fact that no-one seems to be responsible for the terrible impacts on their lives that this event has precipitated.

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