Page 187 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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Obviously Mr Stanhope believes he has risen to such lofty heights that he is now totally above the law and cannot be touched, no matter what. Worse still, for the people now affected by this delay it is just too bad. Those people in our community who are still in limbo, still displaced, still bearing the scars and hurts—physical and otherwise—of the January 2003 bushfires need closure in order to get on with their lives. But here we are now, nearly two years later, with many of those people still not back in their own homes.

The area of particular concern to me in this appalling delay is—and one has to keep asking—why were the proceedings really halted? That is the crucial question in all this debate; this is at the heart of this motion; this is why our motion is calling on the Attorney-General to instruct the lawyers to just get on with it. Of course, only Mr Stanhope truly knows the answer to why this has happened, that is, if he has not forgotten.

Since the bushfires, Mr Stanhope and the government have been most self-congratulatory with regard to the recovery process but much has been done and many people have moved forward. Good things have been achieved, and we have seen a heightened sense of community. Many people have been assisted. I congratulate the government on that, although I did dig my heels in with regard to the closure of the recovery centre. Already, in the last two weeks, four or five people have told me that they really miss it; but what is the point of saying anything, because the government does not want to know. I have tried to direct them to other places, but they say they are not quite the same as the recovery centre. That could be a debate for another day, although it is probably over.

I say that because we have a large number of residents from public housing properties on our rural outskirts who are still living in anguish, waiting for some answers to whether and/or when they can return home. That is a debate for another day. I understand that the Chief Minister may be meeting with the territories minister soon. Obviously, as long as this inquiry is delayed, there will be no closure for the people in our community so badly affected by the events of 18 January 2003.

I ask Mr Stanhope whom he has regard for in this matter: obviously he has little regard for the community at large. Is he then protecting himself or senior bureaucrats—or is it the real reason for us being in this place? Is he standing up for the community? According to letters in the paper, people on the radio and so forth, it appears not.

Our community is very angry about the stalling of this outcome. The government does not like scrutiny, but the community deserves it. No-one would dispute the fact that every person has the right to a defence. What the community does dispute is whether the government has the right to stall a process that severely jeopardises good human beings and prevents them from being able to get on with their lives.

Mr Stanhope should put himself in somebody else’s shoes for a day. If he could only do that, he would realise what he is putting these people through. The Liberal opposition’s motion today does nothing more than instruct the lawyers representing the Attorney-General and the ACT government to discontinue the appeal against Coroner Doogan in the ACT Supreme Court, and affirm his and his government’s confidence in the coronial process. As somebody else said in this place, that brings into question

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