Page 151 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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to be included and publicly released along with the coroner’s report. Either of these responses would mean a vast saving in witness time and money and would ensure a timelier conclusion of the inquiry and a speedier implementation of the necessary recommendations.

On balance, and given the extraordinary amount of time and effort that have gone into this inquiry to date, we would have preferred to see the government wait until it had seen a copy of the coroner’s report before deciding whether it was influenced or potentially influenced by bias. At that point it would still have had the option to take legal action to prevent publication of the report on account of perceived bias or alternatively to provide the coroner with a response to be published along with her findings. We acknowledge, however, that a decision at that point to institute legal proceedings would have left the government open to even stronger claims of a cover-up.

It is important to note here, however, that without knowing the substance of the case in relation to the perception of bias that is to be brought before the Supreme Court, the Assembly as a whole is not in a good position to decide whether, in all the circumstances, such a case should go ahead. Nor can we now ask the government to give us the detailed reasons that we would need to make an informed judgment.

Therefore, I have somewhat reluctantly come to the conclusion that this matter must be left to the determination of the Attorney-General; so I am not supporting the opposition’s motion at this time. I would ask, however, that the Attorney-General take the time again to reflect upon whether the interests of the Canberra community may not be better served by the government withdrawing its appeal and simply intervening in the case to advise the court and the other appellants that they have a later opportunity to make their case, when they will be in a far better position to judge whether their perception of bias was warranted.

It is probably opportune at this time to note also the concerns of the legal profession and elsewhere in the community about the system used for allocating magistrates to particular matters. Currently, there is a rotating roster so that when a matter arises the next magistrate on the list is the one to deal with it. It would seem more sensible to select magistrates to hear matters on the basis of their skill and their expertise in the area rather than just because their number came up. That would have the effect of ensuring that coroners have a less steep learning curve when they confront a major inquiry.

It is also worth noting, Mr Speaker, that a discussion which is too big to have here today is soon to take place between the state attorneys-general about how appropriate it is for disasters of this scope and type to come before a magistrate.

MR QUINLAN (Molonglo—Treasurer and Minister for Economic Development) (12.12): I commend Dr Foskey on some of the very relevant points that she made. I will be guided by you, Mr Speaker. I am not all that familiar with the nuances of sub judice; apparently most of us are not.

Mr Smyth made a point about just letting it all happen, as there is a right of reply. We all know that in practical terms ex post disagreement with what the coroner may bring down

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