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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2894 ..

MR STANHOPE: I will. I am gravely concerned by the suggestion that just because a coronial inquiry takes a long time there are not other aspects of the coronial process that need to be taken account of.

There are people who are perhaps represented before coronial inquiries. I have to speak hypothetically here. I cannot speak about these matters. It needs to be understood that a coronial inquiry is a judicial process. Coroners often recommend that certain action be taken as a result of their inquiries. Is it to be suggested that a person who is involved with a coronial inquiry-a public official-should not take whatever steps they or their legal advisers deem it appropriate for them to take in order to perhaps protect their position?

I think there needs to be some respect for those public officials that get caught up in coronial processes. They have rights. They have a right to defend themselves against incrimination. They have a right to protect themselves against possible criminal proceedings or actions.

It is not a simple matter of saying, "There is a grieving family involved here. To hell with the rights of the public servants that might be caught up in this process. To hell with the rights of those it might be suggested might some day face some criminal process." You have to think about these things. You have to think about the rights of all parties involved. It is a matter of grave concern to me that we so quickly abandon the rights of public officials and public servants as we thrash around looking for somebody to blame.

There are always two sides, and everybody has a right to put their case and to be defended and to defend themselves and their interests. If I were facing a coronial inquiry and if at the end of that inquiry there was a suggestion from the coroner that I be charged with manslaughter, I would be a little bit careful about how I proceeded. I would take legal advice. I would be careful about the statements I made. This is unfortunately a prospect that many of our hard working, dedicated, diligent, committed, overworked mental health workers and disability health workers face. We know that from the last few years. We know of careers destroyed. We know of the crushing weight that some of our officials have had to carry. I will defend them. I think we need to respect our officials and the work they do.

MR HARGREAVES (8.54): I want to address something Mr Smyth said. He-and Hansard will prove me right-perpetuated a furphy he has been perpetuating for some time, trying to scare the living daylights out of some of our clients in the older persons services at Dickson and Narrabundah. He said that this government is going to close those services; it is going to shut them down. That is a furphy which has been debunked over and over again, and it needs refuting yet again tonight.

There is huge difference between that and looking at services to determine priorities and whether you want the attention-addressing social isolation which has been the focus of those services in the past or whether we should be focusing our resources on active rehabilitation for older people. To accept that we can do things the way they have always been done is irresponsible in the extreme.

I have a personal view on this. As a director of rehabilitation and aged care in my past, I had a lot to do with the day care centres at Dickson, Narrabundah, Tuggeranong and Belconnen. I had a lot to do with the transfer of the day centre from Woden Valley

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