Page 191 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Each of these has been detailed in the submissions made to the coroner at the time the application was made to her that she might consider disqualifying herself. Those submissions are, of course, on the public record, and I commend them to the members of the opposition, to all members of this place, and to all those within the community who are interested in or concerned about the detail and the facts in relation to the debate we are having, because there has not been much in the way of facts delivered in the debate by the opposition today. I commend the document containing the submissions made to the coroner to all members of this Assembly. It is a public document that sets out the detail of the issues that essentially are now to be put to the Supreme Court.
The submissions have been revised and amended, as one would expect, by the senior counsel who was engaged, and have now been lodged. That will, in due course, become a public document. The shadow attorney indicated that he had read those submissions. He would understand, as a practising lawyer of some experience, the weight required to be attached to the issues raised in those submissions and the extent to which, if those matters are proved, they go to the administration of justice.
Members would be aware that, on the basis of those submissions, the parties—that is the nine individuals, joined by the territory—after the coroner had taken a decision not to disqualify herself, went to Justice Gray in the initial stage, sought an adjournment and then went to Justice Crispin in the Supreme Court with a view to pursuing the same issue: a judgment in relation to whether or not concerns raised by the nine individuals and the territory were well founded. Justice Crispin said, “Yes, they are well founded. These are serious matters that are deserving of the attention of a full bench of the Supreme Court.”
We are not talking here about frivolous matters. This is not, as has been portrayed here today by members of the opposition, my being frivolous and suggesting that there are no weighty matters in relation to the administration of the law to be tested. Justice Crispin believed and judged that serious issues had been raised by the nine people and the territory, represented before this serious inquiry, which must be resolved. Justice Crispin felt the issues to be of such an order that a full bench of the Supreme Court was required.
That is the nature of the issues put to me as Attorney-General. Those were the serious issues on which I took advice; the basis on which I felt I had no option but to do my duty as attorney and accept the advice; to seek to have the matters tested and to ensure, through that process, that the integrity of the administration of justice in the ACT was in no way impugned or damaged.
It is essentially an appeal: it is an appeal from matters put to the coroner in relation to the conduct of the inquest, which she did not accept. Those who put those matters felt they were of such an order that that decision must be tested. What do we do when that happens in the Magistrates Court? We appeal to the Supreme Court. What do we do when a matter tested in the Supreme Court is dealt with in a way that leaves us concerned at the outcome? We test it in the Federal Court. What do we do if we remain concerned? We test it in the High Court. A matter dealt with in a lower court, the Coroners Court, is to be tested in the Supreme Court by a full bench. The matter is to be tested in the Supreme Court, whether or not the ACT government—the territory—is