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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 943 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

The government persisted in its refusal to move the McLeod inquiry under the Inquiries Act, despite the urging of some members of this Assembly. In the absence of the adoption of the Inquiries Act framework, Mr Stefaniak's straightforward and sensible bill appears to provide the necessary protection for witnesses by invoking a blanket of privilege. That would make the evidence given to the inquiry inadmissible in a court, just as would be the situation if the inquiry were held under the Inquiries Act. I think that is a good middle-ground solution.

The government's amendments which have been circulated changed the privilege protection to a defence. I believe that is less satisfactory. We will discuss those when we get to the detail stage.

In conclusion, I thank both Mr Stefaniak and the Attorney-General for their work on this, and the attempts made to provide some protection to witnesses appearing at the inquiry. Hopefully the evidence we receive will be full and frank, and will help this city to avoid such disasters in the future.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for the Environment) (3.38): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name, and table an explanatory statement to the government amendments [see schedule 1 at page 993].

Mr Speaker, the first amendment replaces the commencement provision in the original bill. The amendment provides that the act will be taken to have commenced on 22 February 2003, when advertisements first called for submissions to the inquiry. This will ensure that those people who have already made submissions to the inquiry will attract the protection provided by the later amendments.

MR STEFANIAK (3.39): There is one thing I always have a bit of trouble with, even with my own bills. I agree with the point in the advice about the need for certainty as to when the act should commence. I can recall talking with the Parliamentary Counsel who was doing it for me-John O'Donovan-about what we should have there for the commencement date. We put in the normal clause, which was the notification day. I had some concerns about that. When we had our round table on Friday, as a group we discussed that at some length.

I believe it is essential that witnesses are protected from the time any submissions are received by the inquiry. We ascertained that the relevant date there was 22 February. I

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