Page 383 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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Mr Stefaniak: Plural, plural.

MR STANHOPE: but he is not going to tell us who he is—and who thinks that I have got a conflict of interest—

Mr Stefaniak: Plural.

MR STANHOPE: Well, Bill, so what? I must say that we have come to a fine old pass when the shadow Attorney-General stands up in this place and tells us about his anonymous mates of 20 years standing in the legal profession who think I have got a conflict of interest. These are Liberal mates, are they, mate? These are Liberal Party rugger-bugger mates, are they?

Mr Smyth: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The minister continues to defy you by avoiding 118 (b); he is debating the question. He has been asked whether or not he has a conflict of interest, and he should answer the question.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Stefaniak referred to some lawyer of long standing—

Mr Stefaniak: A practitioner.

MR SPEAKER: a practitioner, and Mr Stanhope was responding to that point.

MR STANHOPE: I will not delve into the identity of Mr Stefaniak’s unnamed, anonymous Liberal Party legal practitioner mates. But let me repeat the fundamental point at issue here. The fundamental point at issue is that I am the Attorney-General. I am the first law officer of the Australian Capital Territory. I have the fundamental responsibility in the Australian Capital Territory for the administration of our justice system. One of my fundamental responsibilities is to ensure the integrity of that system. I had advice from senior counsel, as well as senior officers of my department—those from whom I take advice and whose advice I respect, unlike unnamed Liberal, rugger-bugger mates. I respect the advice and the opinion of the head and the deputy head of the department of JACS. I respect the advice of Queens Counsel and senior counsel, each of whom advised me, separately, that there was cause for concern in relation to the process adopted in relation to certain aspects of the inquiry into the fires. The concern went to whether or not there was a reasonable possibility of a perception of bias being held in relation to certain of the activities of the coroner and counsel assisting.

This goes to a fundamental principle—that justice be done and that justice be seen to be done; the scales of justice not be weighed one way or the other; that anybody with a matter before a court on the day the matter is decided can walk out the door, no matter what the outcome, and say: “Well, that outcome stings me a bit. It hurts me. It goes to my reputation and my credit. But I can’t complain. I have no complaint about the process.”

Mr Smyth: But you have a conflict of interest. You are avoiding the question.

MR STANHOPE: I am not avoiding the process at all. The issue is that, as Attorney-General—but actually as a politician, as an individual, as a person—I am

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