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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1239 ..

Mr Smyth: But he hasn't today, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, he might not be sticking to it in the way that you want him to do, which is the difficulty with question time. It is not within my scope to require ministers to answer questions in a way that pleases the opposition. I am not able to do that. In fact, if I were to do that, I think the government of the day would be quite correct in referring me to a considerable number of precedents on how that has never been required of ministers. I rule that, while ever the Chief Minister stays with the subject matter of the question, it is open to him to answer it in any way that he wishes.

Mr Smyth: Mr Speaker, I respect the abilities that you have and the standing orders in the way that they govern what you are allowed to direct ministers to do, but Mr Pratt's question specifically asked the Chief Minister to comment on his own words about whether submissions would be made public and whether his inquiry would be a public inquiry. He chooses to talk about things that the Liberal Party is doing and he chooses to talk about things that everybody else is doing, but you have the ability to direct the Chief Minister to answer to the essence of the question, which was about his own words, under standing order 118 (a). I request that you do so and bring him to order so that he might answer the question appropriately.

MR SPEAKER: I do not have to direct the Chief Minister to comply with standing order 118 (a) because, while ever he confines himself to the subject matter, I do not think that you have a point of order. Generally speaking, it has not been the practice of this place or of many others to order people to take note of the time so long as they stick to the subject matter of the question. I cannot rule in your favour, Mr Smyth.

MR STANHOPE: It is important that we understand the context in which we are operating in relation to inquiries and it is important to understand the place of the McLeod inquiry in relation to the suite of inquiries so that we understand the circumstances and the import of what it is that we are discussing. As I say, the second inquiry is the ACT coronial process-full, judicial, open, public, cross-examination, lawyers wall to wall.

The third inquiry, of course, is the New South Wales coronial process. It will probably cost as much and take as long-exactly the same process. It is very important and significant for the ACT because of the McIntyres hut fire, a fire that I think on much analysis will be shown to be the fire that burnt into the southern suburbs of the ACT. The process will be exactly the same-open, judicial, public, it will call for submissions, exhausting, cross-examination day after day, examination, summonses, subpoenas, submissions, counter-submissions. It will take a year to two years and cost a couple of million dollars.

The fourth process is the Victorian coronial process. Perhaps the Victorian fires did not impact directly, but we were dealing with a range of fires. Issues around the national impact and the national response are very important. It is probably important that the ACT have some involvement in that. The Victorian coronial process-a couple of million dollars, one to two years, lawyers briefed wall to wall, open, accountable, public, cross-examination, examination.

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