Page 208 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 8 December 2004

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I go back to what I said earlier when I was speaking about the pattern developing of the government shutting down debate and scrutiny, which does go to this issue because community confidence in the attorney and the government relies on scrutiny and relies on the Assembly being able to do its job. Unfortunately, we are already seeing shut down the ability of the Assembly to scrutinise the government.

We have had a gag imposed on the length of speeches. We have had committee appointments that ensure that the busiest areas of government are scrutinised by members of the government. We have a 6.00 pm adjournment, so we cannot fully debate these things in one day; we need to go on to the next sitting day. We have seen the government hiding behind the sub judice rule. It has sought to hide behind it when clearly most of the discussion has not even gone close to breaching the sub judice convention.

Of course, part of this pattern is the Attorney-General’s decision to seek to shut down a coronial inquest that is, in part, examining the actions of his government. Mr Speaker, I put it to you and I put it to the Assembly that any reasonable person looking at this matter would say, based on those facts, that there is something wrong. The attorney should not be making that decision. He has a stake—

MR SPEAKER: Resume your seat, Mr Seselja. I gave you adequate warning, I think.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (5.44): Mr Speaker, I rise to express a lack of confidence to a great degree in the Attorney-General. The Chief Minister is not fit to be Attorney-General. I want to detail a number of issues underlying that concern. It is my belief that he has monumentally failed the ACT community at a time when the community needs to get to the truth of what happened and what failed in January 2003.

The Attorney-General, as first law officer, has more than just a narrow role with respect to the conduct of this coronial inquest. He has a responsibility to the nine individuals mentioned in current proceedings, but he has a greater responsibility to the other 330,000 citizens of the ACT. That is where he has failed in his fundamental duty. He has failed in his duty because he interrupted the urgent proceedings of the only inquiry capable of independently getting to the bottom of what went wrong in the worst emergency seen in the ACT in modern times.

The community is deeply concerned that the McLeod inquiry, while useful, did not adequately cover the ground. That was becoming starkly clear from the earliest days of the Doogan inquiry, when so many more substantive issues were being canvassed than had been the case throughout the life of the McLeod experience. Even if Doogan is allowed to continue, valuable time will be lost, and preliminary reports from Doogan would have allowed significant adjustments to be made to ACT emergency procedures during the current summer period. Doogan might have been in a position to offer preliminary reports at this time that could have influenced this government to make necessary adjustments as we go into this next summer bushfire season.

The Attorney-General surely must have known the damage he would be doing to this critical inquiry process. He has neglected the community greater good by allegedly representing the needs of nine individuals. I remind the house of the attorney’s ridiculing

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