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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 941 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

correct information is that the two female patients-a mother and daughter-were transferred to Concord Hospital in Sydney on 19 January. At the time of the transfer, both were in a critical condition, with severe burn injuries.

The latest update, on 6 March, has confirmed that the mother was discharged from Concord Hospital on 24 February and has been attending the burns unit outpatient department on a daily basis for ongoing management of her burns. The daughter remains in a stable condition in the burns unit at Concord. A third person-a man-was transferred to Northshore Hospital in Sydney on 19 January and was discharged on 14 February.

Bushfire Inquiry (Protection of Statements) Bill 2003

Debate resumed from 5 March 2003, on motion by Mr Stefaniak:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for the Environment) (3.30): I thank Mr Stefaniak at the outset for the cooperation which he and his office rendered my office in relation to negotiations around amendments to the legislation he introduced last week.

All members would be fully aware of the circumstances around the introduction of Mr Stefaniak's legislation. It goes to the issue of a desire to provide protection against defamation to any member of the community who may choose to make submissions to the McLeod inquiry.

Members are aware of the position I and the government have taken in relation to that issue. My position initially was that, to the extent qualified privilege attached, there was no great or driving need for people who chose to make submissions to that inquiry to have specific or special protection against defamation.

I do not think we need to revisit today the arguments and debate that have occurred in this place over several days in relation to a number of motions around the establishment of the McLeod inquiry. It is not my interest or desire to do that today. As I say, we, the government, have accepted-on the basis of direct representations made to us-that there are a number of members of the community who feel some disquiet about the submissions they may wish to make not being covered against potential actions in defamation and their consequent will to make submissions to the inquiry.

Mr Stefaniak has introduced legislation. Last week, I circulated detailed advice in relation to that legislation, which was received by me from the department of justice. It was the view of my legal advisers that there were some deficiencies or gaps in the cover Mr Stefaniak sought to introduce for people who wished to be protected from defamation.

As I have said, my office worked very cooperatively with Mr Stefaniak, and I acknowledge the spirit in which those negotiations have been undertaken. We have arrived, as I understand it, at a compromise, or consensus position, on how to take Mr Stefaniak's legislation forward.

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