Page 63 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 7 December 2004
MR STANHOPE: I understand that, and I take it that it is not a tack for the purposes of providing some additional information to members.
Mrs Dunne: Mr Speaker, under standing order 118 (a), an answer is to pertain to the subject matter. The question is: why did the ACT government join the legal proceedings? And that question has been answered, at least to some extent, by the Attorney on radio and in this place.
MR SPEAKER: What Mr Stanhope says on radio is a matter for him. But what is said in this place is a matter for me to determine in the context of the standing orders. Mr Stanhope, who is dealing with the point of the question, is very cautious about the sub judice rule.
MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is important that we respect the sub judice rule—the separation of powers in the courts. In light of your cautionary remarks, let me go to the point of the role and responsibilities of the Attorney-General in the administration of justice. I presume that this was the point that the shadow attorney was seeking to address in his question, in a very ham-fisted way.
The Attorney-General, as the first law officer, has essentially a dual responsibility. The Attorney-General is also a politician. I am a politician; I am a first law officer. There is a first law officer act that seeks to make explicit some of those issues and the dual role and responsibilities of a first law officer. I am the Attorney-General, I am a politician and I act in the interests of the government in relation to the administration of justice and issues with a legal focus.
I can initiate legal action on behalf of the territory. I am also the first law officer, and I have a responsibility for the courts. I have a responsibility for the administration of justice, and the matter now before the Supreme Court is a matter that goes to the heart of the administration of justice—namely, that justice not only be done but that it be seen to be done and that it be seen to be done according to some very strict principles and protocols. That is what we are doing.
MR SPEAKER: The minister’s time has expired.
MR SESELJA: I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, who provided the advice suggesting that the government act in this unprecedented way?
MR STANHOPE: The government’s legal advisers.
MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, prior to your unprecedented action to join in legal action against the coroner, you sought advice from the head of your department. Like you, he may be the subject of an adverse finding or criticism if the coroner is able to deliver her report next year. Attorney, why did you ask for advice from the head of your department, rather than an impartial source on this issue, given that he, like yourself, has an obvious conflict of interest?