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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 257 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Needless to say having embarked on such a wide ranging inquiry out of extreme caution to ensure no issue was overlooked there is now no need in my view to again convene the Smethurst Inquiry. It would be simply a duplication of the process...

But this was, of course, not a formal recommendation by the coroner, merely an expression of opinion, but presumably it is the basis that led Major General Smethurst to hand back his commission, as the Chief Minister told us occurred late in 1999. We cannot be sure when he handed it back because we have not seen any report of the inquiry, despite the point that Mr Kaine made yesterday about the provisions of sections 14 and 14A of the Inquiries Act.

I think it would be appropriate if there were some report from Major General Smethurst about the basis on which he handed back his commission. I recall quite clearly that he collected a significant number of documents in the period before the coronial inquest was established. He did do work at the outset but until yesterday we did not know, in fact, that his inquiry had been terminated. It was not until yesterday that we discovered that. The termination was allowed to occur in secret. There was no announcement in 1999 and there has not been one since. There has been no announcement of the termination of the inquiry at all, and this remains and continues to be a mystery. I am not sure that we will ever get a plausible explanation as to why, and the circumstances in which, that particular inquiry was terminated.

At the same time, acknowledging what Mr Madden said, there is, in retrospect, a gap in Mr Madden's reasoning-one that he could not have foreseen at the time he made his comments. Mr Madden expressed his opinion in the same report that he recommended that serious criminal charges be laid against certain people in relation to the implosion. It is inconceivable that he would have had any expectation that those charges would never be heard, for whatever reason. I think it would have been inconceivable to the coroner when he made that recommendation that the charges would not be heard.

In the expectation that those charges would be laid and heard, Mr Madden was entitled to his view that his own inquiry had ranged broadly over the same ground proposed to be covered by Major General Smethurst. Mr Madden was entitled to that view, even though he had quite properly excused from giving evidence during his inquiry two of those most closely connected with the implosion, the same people he recommended should be charged.

The coroner could quite rightly have expected the legal proceedings he recommended would see their versions of the events of the implosion put and tested in court. It is undoubtedly that expectation that led Mr Madden to express his view that there was no need for a further inquiry or for the Smethurst inquiry to reconvene. That is only logical.

Mr Madden had an expectation that there would be a further review of the matters. Mr Madden had an expectation that those whom he recommended be charged would make their defence in a court, that the matters that they had not revealed to him would subsequently be revealed during their trials.

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