Page 147 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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MR SPEAKER: Order! Dr Foskey, you have to vote when your name is called.

Dr Foskey: I think that in this instance—

MR SPEAKER: Order! Advice cannot be handed up in the course of a vote.

The Assembly voted—

Ayes 7

Noes 10

Mrs Burke

Mr Smyth

Mr Berry

Mr Hargreaves

Mrs Dunne

Mr Stefaniak

Mr Corbell

Ms MacDonald

Mr Mulcahy

Dr Foskey

Ms Porter

Mr Pratt

Ms Gallagher

Mr Quinlan

Mr Seselja

Mr Gentleman

Mr Stanhope

Question so resolved in the negative.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition): (11.57): Mr Speaker, I guess we have to ask: what does the coroner do? The coroner is there to examine the role of individuals and organisations, including the government, in relation to what happened after a specific event, in this case the bushfires of 18 January 2003.

The coroner’s role is inquisitorial, not adversarial, and it should be tough as these are serious issues. With four deaths, 500 homes lost and over a billion dollars worth of damage, it should be very inquisitorial and very tough to make sure that we get to the bottom of the matter.

The coroner will give individuals the right of reply. They see the sections that pertain to them and they normally have the right to write to the coroner and say that something is right or wrong and they agree or disagree. The coroner makes recommendations; the coroner does not lay charges.

Since the start of this process the Stanhope Labor government seems to have been at odds with the coroner. The coroner advised that she wanted additional counsel, that they should separate their lines as to who was counselling whom in case there was a conflict of interest later, as became apparent. Even though the government had been urged on several occasions to provide additional counsel, it chose not to.

The government has dragged its feet on this process since the start and it is continuing to drag its feet to slow down the process and to muddy the waters. You have to ask why. What is the purpose? Why shoot the messenger? The coroner is simply a messenger. The whole purpose of it is to discredit the process so that, no matter what the outcome, the outcome will be tainted and, no matter what the recommendations, the recommendations will be tainted, so that when the coroner delivers something that may or may not be to the disadvantage of the government, the government can simply dismiss it by saying that the whole process has been flawed. That is what we are having here and that is why there are proceedings in the Supreme Court.

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