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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 256 ..

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (3.41): Mr Speaker, before addressing the substance of this matter of public importance, I acknowledge the issue that the Chief Minister has just been addressing-the fact that there are ongoing legal actions or matters arising out of and in the aftermath of the implosion of the hospital. Of course, we all acknowledge and understand implicitly the importance of ensuring absolutely that nothing we do or say in this place affects the administration of justice. That is a given. We are all conscious of it and we are all respectful of the importance of that.

That does not prevent us from debating, or impinge on our capacity to debate, this issue or this matter of public importance, just as it did not affect the Canberra Times' capacity to editorialise last week on this very same subject. The Canberra Times had no difficult in editorialising, the Canberra Times had no difficulty raising and discussing this very same issue, and nor do we in this place have any difficulty as long as we, of course, respect and understand the importance of not impacting on or affecting any legal matter that may be current.

On the issue of the matter of public importance, we have each noted that under questioning from Mr Kaine over the past two days the Chief Minister has relied on two arguments to resist the calls that Mr Kaine has made to reconvene the Smethurst inquiry-cost and the comprehensive nature of the coroner's report. The Chief Minister referred again to these matters today.

Mr Kaine dealt with the cost argument. I think it can be restated quite simply that this community has already invested over $2 million in the inquiry-in fact, it is probably $3 million if one takes into account the cost of the coronial inquiry itself. But just in legal expenses, I understand we are up to $21/4 million. If one takes into account each of the legal counsel engaged, the Totalcare costs and the legal aid paid, I think that bill is $21/4 million. Over and above that we have the coroner's costs and all of the on-costs. So we are probably looking at $3 million.

Can we afford to spend any more money on this? I think the crux of the point that Mr Kaine makes about the cost is that we have probably spent $3 million to date inquiring into this issue but the report is not complete, the matter is not settled and there are significant gaps. So we are faced with the equation: having spent $3 million but the matter not being concluded, is it appropriate to suggest that we spend another couple of hundred thousand dollars to at least ensure that the job is done, and done fully and completely? I think absolutely yes.

There is an additional cost. It is a cost which we should bear to see that the job is concluded appropriately. Having expended $3 million and done 90 per cent of the work, it behoves us to be prepared to expend an additional 10 per cent of the overall cost to have the job done properly. So the cost is acceptable. There is a legitimate additional cost which we should be prepared to bear in relation to the furtherance of this inquiry.

And as regards the view that the coroner's report dealt with all the issues comprehensively-this is the point on which the Chief Minister principally hangs his hat-it is true that Mr Madden made specific reference in his report to the Smethurst inquiry, and the Chief Minister has just made some reference to that in his remarks.

Mr Madden also said, in addition to the comments just quoted by the Chief Minister:

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