Page 472 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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It is not an earth-shattering or fatal problem, because what we are saying is that in those circumstances—in the circumstances we face here where the attorney, quite clearly, has a conflict of interest—he simply stands aside as attorney. He simply stands aside as attorney until such time as this court action and any related court actions that may come from it are finalised, then he resumes the role of attorney. He needs to do that primarily because, reason No 1, he is actually a witness who has given evidence in this matter when this coronial inquest was running and before the matter was appealed. It is that simple.

This is the situation—it is not really just a legal point; it is a basic, obvious point; blind Freddy out there could see it—there is a conflict of interest here. People face conflict of interest situations quite regularly. I noted with interest, Mr Speaker, yesterday when I was perusing the Remuneration Tribunal’s determinations—and remember our Remuneration Tribunal comprises Alan Kerr, AM, Roberta McRae, OAM, former Labor Speaker of this house and former member for Ginninderra, and Jill Greenwell—a matter regarding the Cultural Facilities Corporation Board. This is a good illustration of what is appropriate behaviour, having regard to conflict of interest, by someone who faces it. In relation to the Cultural Facilities Corporation Board, I quote from page 3 of the Remuneration Tribunal’s determination:

The submission advised that a request had been made to the Minister to seek the Chief Minister’s referral of the Chair of the Finance and Compliance Committee to the Tribunal for determination.

It was also submitted that the Corporation’s commercial operations would be more appropriately reflected in remuneration rates similar to those of the Australian Capital Tourism Corporation Board.

Ms Roberta McRae excused herself from the Tribunal’s discussion and any determination on this matter, as she is a member of an advisory committee to the CFC Board.

The Tribunal noted it had not received a referral from the Chief Minister for the Chair of the Finance and Compliance Committee …

It goes on. It decided that further details should be obtained. What former Speaker McRae, now a member of the tribunal, has done there—in an obvious, classic case of someone on a body like that being faced with a conflict of interest—is excuse herself from further discussion.

What we are saying quite clearly here is that the Attorney-General, in his capacity as Attorney-General, has been a witness in this coronial inquiry, which now finds itself before the Supreme Court, and also one of the parties to that particular appeal. He is in a classic conflict of interest situation. It is irrelevant what happens or does not happen to that appeal and any legal argument in relation to the reasons for it. The problem here is the role of the attorney, the first law officer for the ACT, who has been a witness and who is now party to an appeal against the coroner in relation to a claim of apprehended bias. He has been a witness. He should stand aside.

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