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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 259 ..

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Attorney-General) (3.52): Mr Speaker, I believe that a short examination of the relevant facts, especially relating to the inquiries that have already been undertaken, will demonstrate that there are not grounds to reconvene any inquiries under the Inquiries Act, as suggested by Mr Kaine. Indeed, I think it would be helpful to commence by reminding the Assembly of the actual extensive level of investigation and the other follow-up action that has been undertaken by various independent inquiries and the government respectively on this matter.

It is highly relevant to take note of both the comments of the coroner into the hospital implosion-I think we have heard some mention of that already-and those of Major General Smethurst in November 1999 when the coroner made public his findings. Of course, Major General Smethurst was appointed under the Inquiries Act to undertake a separate inquiry into the matter.

The coroner's inquiry commenced in August of 1997 and was only completed following a very thorough and wide-ranging investigation on 4 November 1999 when he made public his findings-some 21/4 years later. The hearings started in March of 1998 and finished in November 1998. There were 118 sitting days and some 9,900 pages of transcript. His decision was handed down in November 1999 in a 650 page report of his findings, comments and recommendations. In all, some 47 witnesses, including the former Chief Minister, gave oral evidence and some 600 exhibits were tendered. Some 18 separate interests were granted leave to appear. At most times there were at least six counsels appearing and they were allowed to cross-examine all witnesses in the actual proceedings.

That investigation included not only persons immediately involved in the failed implosion but a large number of other persons less directly involved, including agency staff, politicians like the former Chief Minister and political advisers, whom the coroner considered should relevantly be included within the inquiry.

The Smethurst inquiry was established on 29 July 1997 but, on the advice of the coroner who considered that this inquiry had the potential to adversely impact on the coronial inquest and in particular any later recommendations relating to criminal proceedings, agreed to go into recess on 27 August 1997. I was well aware of that. Mr Kaine was in cabinet at the time as Urban Services Minister and Mr Stanhope, of course, was not in the Assembly then.

The Smethurst inquiry's terms of reference, as with the coroner's inquiry, were very extensive and, in summary, they included that the inquiry inquire into the following matters:

Firstly, the circumstances, including all considerations by the Assembly, the executive, ministers, officials and agencies relating to the demolition of the Royal Canberra Hospital since the Acton-Kingston land swap;

secondly, the circumstances relating to the process followed in reaching a conclusion as to how to demolish the Royal Canberra Hospital and, in particular, amongst other matters, what issues were considered, risk analysis, whether any political or other considerations influenced the decision to implode, and whether the decision to implode was properly authorised;

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