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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 8 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3010 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

It is something that occurred in the criminal law probably 10 or 15 years ago, where you give other people statements. You actually have police records of interview. The prosecution actually started giving statements to the defence and-far from shock, horror, the sky falling in-that actually often speeded up matters in that jurisdiction. Defendants would plead guilty because they thought solicitors would say, "Look, they've got a watertight case against you, pal, you're stuffed."

Similarly now, in the civil jurisdiction, I think there are some sensible amendments actually being made here which will improve the law, which will modernise the law and which will, hopefully, get rid of some of the adversarial aspects that were certainly less than perfect. Accordingly, because the government will be moving its amendment No 2, I think that that should probably cover any real dangers that might exist in relation to what we're discussing now.

We'll obviously monitor it closely but, on that basis, I'm certainly quite happy to support the government in relation to this particular section.

MS TUCKER (11.57): Just a quick response: I think, in a way, listening to Mr Stanhope and Mr Stefaniak, they're supporting my amendment; they've made the point very strongly that they see expert witnesses being used to progress a particular position. That's the very point that I'm making: it's obviously possible to have an expert witness disagreeing with another expert witness. When the court appoints an expert witness, in fact in this sort of situation-and this is what is trying to be established-that evidence is absolutely critical, that expert witness is extremely important. It is, I think, a serious reduction in terms of the capacity to find the truth, when you only have one expert witness. We have seen in the UK, where they've done that, terrible miscarriages of justice have occurred. So I think we need to be very, very concerned about this.

MRS CROSS (11.58): Mr Speaker, it disturbs me to hear some of the legal jargon that's being used in regard to this amendment by Mr Stanhope and Mr Stefaniak, especially given that some people in this place, such as the Chief Minister, base their reputations on being socially progressive.

It's incredible to me that one would try to limit a democratic process by saying, "Well, no, you can only have one."I'm frankly shocked. I'm not shocked that it would happen from one side of the chamber, but I am shocked that it would happen by those that proclaim to be socially progressive. So I will support Ms Tucker's amendment.

Question put:

That Ms Tucker's amendment No 6 be agreed to.

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