Page 136 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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of the speech left. It is an important matter and it should be given the attention that it deserves.

Question put:

That Mr Stefaniak’s motion be agreed to.

The Assembly voted—

Ayes 7

Noes 8

Mrs Burke

Mr Pratt

Mr Berry

Ms MacDonald

Mrs Dunne

Mr Smyth

Ms Gallagher

Mrs Porter

Dr Foskey

Mr Stefaniak

Mr Gentleman

Mr Quinlan

Mr Mulcahy

Mr Hargreaves

Mr Stanhope

Question so resolved in the negative.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (11.13): Mr Speaker, this action of the government is an unprecedented attack on the coronial process and the courts, and the government should be ashamed of itself. You can already see the misgivings starting to appear in the community, with comments being made by the public both on talkback radio and in the newspapers. One of the letters in the Canberra Times says, “Well, it is official. The current fire inquest does have the potential to embarrass the ACT government. Why else would they be toying with the idea of abolishing inquests into fires?”

The Attorney-General’s job is to protect and advocate for the courts, not to attack them. What we have is a Chief Minister who, when he was in opposition, used to make it very clear what the role of the Attorney-General was and how it had this higher calling. What we have now is an Attorney-General who has abandoned all the lofty rhetoric of five years ago. Isn’t it amazing what a difference five years makes? Or perhaps it is just with the transition from opposition to government that the Attorney-General has abandoned that. But worse than his abandoning that, we have this central problem that the Attorney-General is also a witness and a witness who actually corrected his statement—was it once, twice?—to the coroner. And he appears as a representative for the government.

MR SPEAKER: Order! I order you to discontinue that line, Mr Smyth, because that is a matter that was before the coroner and is likely to be part of the evidence put before the courts.

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, I thought the matter before the coroner was the apprehension of bias in her actions, not whether or not the Chief Minister had appeared.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, as I said at the outset, I am going to err on the side of safety here. If I think that anything raised in this place is likely to form part of evidence that goes before court proceedings, I am going to order members not to continue. Bear in mind that the courts, I expect, will observe similar caution when it comes to using proceedings in this place in evidence that comes before them. So it could be that members’ comments in this place could prejudice evidence that might go before the courts as well. I order you to discontinue that line.

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