Page 66 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 7 December 2004

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unprecedented step in taking legal action to force Coroner Doogan to stand aside as coroner. As the entire legal bill for this court case will be paid for by the ACT taxpayer, can the attorney advise how much it is estimated the taxpayer will pay to cover the costs of this legal action—legal representation of the government, the costs of the other parties to the action and the coroner?

MR STANHOPE: I am more than happy to seek what advice I can in relation to those particular questions but, of course, I do not have it here with me or at my fingertips. Certainly there is a cost. The inquest to date has cost some millions of dollars. I cannot quite remember the figure but I think it may be of the order of $5½ million to $6 million to date. It will, of course, cost more. The point I made before, I think, is well made: every legal action, of course, results in significant costs.

I am dealing just this week with the cost of a defamation action against the Leader of the Opposition in which I am being asked to resolve an issue in relation to the extent of the costs that the ACT taxpayer will have to meet. Just as attorney, I am aware and conscious of the costs that the ACT taxpayer has had to meet in relation to a range of actions taken by staff of members of the opposition over the last three years in relation to a range of things such as wrongful dismissal and other sorts of allegations that are made. Of course the territory represents members of the Assembly in relation to each of those matters and of course there is a significant cost in relation to each of those matters—the mess that each of you have had your offices in over the last three years and the cost the taxpayer has had to bear as a result of a range of wrongful dismissal actions and a range of other actions that staff have taken against you as a result of defamation actions taken against the Leader of the Opposition. The operation of the law is an expensive business.

Mr Smyth: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: standing order 118 (b) says expressly that the Chief Minister cannot argue the point; he must contain himself and contain his answer to the question, which was about his costs and the costs of his government in regard to the coronial inquiry.

MR SPEAKER: How can I ask him to contain himself to such a bold question like that!

MR STANHOPE: I will take it on notice.

MR MULCAHY: May I ask a supplementary question, Mr Speaker?

MR SPEAKER: You may.

MR MULCAHY: In relation to the provision of information regarding estimates of costs, could the attorney also indicate the specific costs associated with the ACT government’s participation in this action as distinct from the other costs incurred by those parties?

MR STANHOPE: I will seek to achieve that, Mr Speaker. Certainly I will have to take advice. I am not entirely sure about the extent to which we will be able to disaggregate, but I am certainly more than happy to provide all of the costs, disaggregated, as best I can. I didn’t quite hear the conclusion. Would you also like me to provide the costs of the defamation action involved? I will do it any way.

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