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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 255 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

So I did not at any stage say that it was dormant or non-existent. I simply responded to his question that suggested that it might have been by saying that if that was the case then I thought there would be certain things flowing from that. I would like to correct the record on that score, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker, I also want to correct a couple of other things that Mr Kaine said. He said that no-one has been identified as being responsible for the death of Katie Bender. My response to this illustrates how difficult it is to conduct a debate of this kind while matters are still proceeding before the ACT courts. There are proceedings against two people in our courts at this time relating to the implosion at the Royal Canberra Hospital and the death of Katie Bender. If one or both of the two people who are involved in proceedings in the court in fact suffer a penalty on the basis of some misfeasance on one or both of their parts, then that may be interpreted-and I say this with great care because the matter is still before the court-as a statement of responsibility with respect to the death of that girl. So it is quite improper and quite wrong to suggest that no-one has been identified as responsible.

In fact, the coroner conducted a comprehensive inquest into this matter. It was one of the longest ever undertaken in the ACT, and one of the most comprehensive. At the end of that process he handed down a report. I want to quote one part of that report:

It is out of extreme caution that a wide ranging inquiry was undertaken to ensure that no issue was missed and therefore it seems to me on review that there is no necessity now to reconvene the Smethurst Inquiry or any other inquiry.

That was the view of the coroner, Mr Madden. It is clear from the proceedings the coroner undertook that he did form a view about blame. He made recommendations appropriate to that view and the recommendations in turn led to charges being laid against two individuals. Those charges have been discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions on grounds which are strictly matters of interpretation of the law and the assessment by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the likelihood of the charges being successful in our courts.

So it is also wrong to say, as Mr Kaine said, that those who exhibited lack of competence appear to stand unscathed. The proceedings are still afoot. They are not manslaughter proceedings but they are still proceedings that deal with the question of blame. I have to say that while those proceedings are on foot a debate in here has the very great danger of prejudicing that inquiry, particularly if it is reported. I see nobody in the press gallery at the moment, but as we know people are in other parts of this building listening to these proceedings. I simply say to members: be extremely cautious about what you say on this matter because there are people whose position stands to be prejudiced by what we say here.

Mr Speaker, I do not want to say anything else on this matter except this: Mr Kaine asked a question today about honesty and integrity in this place. I think it is most unfortunate that there are still people in this community who are seeking to exploit the death of that young girl for political reasons.

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