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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2542 ..



relation to that matter. I support entirely everything that Mr Corbell has said about that. I believe it would be unprecedented.

In many ways it would be derelict for the minister to release into the public domain legal advice, obtained by the territory or an instrumentality or organisation associated with the territory and for which there is territory responsibility, relevant to a foreshadowed legal action. It would simply be derelict, in my mind, that the minister would expose the territory's legal position in those circumstances.

I think it's very important that members quite clearly signal that they're not prepared to be a party to an action or a result that would expose the territory's potential liability or expose it in a legal action that's been foreshadowed. We've all read and heard from representatives of the building and development industry in the ACT that there are a group of developers, it's said, that have already obtained certain legal advice and that are actively considering instituting legal action against the territory. It's seriously suggested by Mrs Dunne and by the Liberals that the government should jeopardise the territory's position in that matter by releasing this legal advice.

Mr Corbell has offered to make the advice available on a confidential basis. It quite clearly does have to be on a confidential basis. I think members, particularly members of the Liberal Party, would be very aware of the issues in relation to the Mann case, around the release of legal advisings to members of the Assembly, and of the implications of that. Dr Mann took action against the Chief Minister. It proceeded for years at enormous cost to the territory and resulted in the circumstance where the government simply can't release legal advisings, privileged documents, to members of the Assembly without a strict undertaking on behalf of members that they will respect the confidentiality of those documents.

We've been through an enormous process in relation to this issue over the last five or six years-in relation to actions for defamation, I think, essentially-as a result of the release to a crossbench member of this place of a legal advising by the then government. We need to keep that in mind. I have written to members on this subject of issues around the release of legal opinions.

I reiterate again, by way of conclusion, the point that Mr Corbell makes. It would be unprecedented for a minister to release a legal opinion in circumstances where parties have announced that they are actively considering instituting legal action against the territory in relation to the matter which is the subject of the legal opinion. I think it would be absolutely derelict of the minister to expose the territory in that way.


(11.16): I have been listening to the debate. There's an amendment circulated in my name which seeks to add the following words:

"and that the advice be held in the Clerk's office and made available only to Members, and that the advice be destroyed at the end of this Assembly.".

The last bit's just because the clerk's office doesn't want to have to hold these documents forever.

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