Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 February 2005) . . Page.. 474 ..
resume that role when the process was complete. That is what the opposition is calling on him to do; that is what I would submit to you all is something that the Canberra community would expect him to do, especially those who have been caught up in the traumas of the particularly horrible event that occurred on 18 January 2003. That is what we have been calling on him to do; that is what, I submit to you all, the conventions and indeed common sense would dictate that he do.
MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (12.07): I rise to speak in support of this motion today. This is an issue that, as Mr Stefaniak put it, is a fairly simple issue; it is not rocket science; you do not need a law degree to understand this issue. You do not need to be a practising lawyer to understand this issue. It is an issue about justice not only being done but also being seen to be done. I believe Mr Stanhope used those very words in the chamber yesterday. This is the crucial point here; this is what the community expects—that justice be seen to be done.
Mr Stanhope has, for some time, been talking about his duties as first law officer; he has been quoted widely in the media about what his duties are and his duties to the non-individuals and his duties as first law officer to uphold the principles of justice. I agree with him: it is his role as first law officer to uphold the principles of justice. It is also incumbent upon him and his government to ensure that justice be seen to be done. I put it to the Assembly and I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that in these circumstances, with the Attorney-General in the position he is, it is very difficult for justice to be seen to be done. I will just outline, I guess, a bit of the background and a few of the reasons why I have drawn that conclusion.
These are the facts: Mr Stanhope appeared as a witness in the inquest. That is a fact. He was a very important witness, as Mr Stefaniak put it. He is potentially subject to adverse findings from the report; that is beyond dispute. He has taken action to shut down the inquest in a court of law; that is beyond dispute. And if and when the inquest is finalised and the report prepared, it will most likely be presented to Mr Stanhope, as Mr Stefaniak has just pointed out. Under the Coroners Act, it is likely that this will go to the Attorney-General who then may well have recommendations to act on.
Put all that together and it is difficult for the average person to see that justice is being done. How can justice be seen to be done when the Chief Minister has interests in so many different areas? It is a conflict of interest. As I said, this is not rocket science. Any casual observer could see that, even if the Chief Minister and Attorney-General’s motives are perfectly pure, there could be a perception that he has conflicting interests. He has an interest as first law officer; he has an interest as a witness; he has an interest as head of the government. These interests do not easily coincide; they are not easily reconciled.
As Mr Stefaniak has already pointed out, people often stand aside for conflict of interest. It is a common practice that people rule themselves out of committee meetings when they have a conflict and a certain matter is to be discussed; that is common practice in business and government. And people in the community would expect no less from our Chief Minister and from our first law officer.
On the issue of receiving the report, we know that the Chief Minister received the Gallop