Page 194 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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done so. What is he trying to do here? Is he muddying the water? He is certainly not acting as an Attorney-General should.

The attorney has taken a certain line on the Eastman case. As attorney, I took a different line when the matter was first raised. Both actions by the respective attorneys at the time are completely legitimate and completely within the role of the Attorney-General. He did not criticise me, and I have not criticised him for what he is doing there. It is quite appropriate for an Attorney-General to ensure that there is an appeal, for example, against a decision made by a judge in a civil matter. There is no problem there; that is part of the process.

Here we have a situation where there is no precedent for this action anywhere in Australia. There is no need for the Attorney-General to take this action. This is, in fact, something that even he was trying to make some mileage out of in question time in relation to questions by the opposition—questions that were allowed—about letting the inquest run. He wants the coronial process to be seen through. As late as 17 August this year he criticised questions asked by the opposition about the inquest. He said, “I do not want to get into a slanging match with the coroner.” He went on to say:

I have taken the decision that I, unlike the opposition, will let the court process run. I will let it be handled by those charged with that responsibility.

He went on to say:

I am not responsible for running a coronial inquest; no I am not. It is called the “separation of powers”.

Well, hear, hear! He went on to say:

You might want to come to some understanding of what “separation of powers” means, because you quite clearly have no clue at all. Nor do you understand the … inappropriateness of what you are doing in relation to the coronial inquest. It is essentially inappropriate—

This was in relation to opposition questions. It continues:

—it is wrong—that you, through this forum, seek or wish to rerun a judicial process. It is just wrong. It is wrong as a matter of governance and process. It is wrong that you should seek, through this place, to second-guess a judicial process. I do not accept the criticism. I will not get into a slanging match with the coroner; I will respect the court. But I do not accept her criticism.

Whether Mr Stanhope was right or wrong in his comments about opposition questions, he was certainly correct, as at 17 August, in saying he does not want to second-guess the process; he is not going to get into a slanging match with the coroner, and he will respect the court.

He is also quite correct and within his rights to say that he does not accept the coroner’s criticism. There are times when even attorney-generals criticise the judiciary, and former justices who address learned sessions—and I have a number of quotes here that I will not go into—make the point that no-one expects even the Attorney-General to agree with

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