Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 February 2005) . . Page.. 475 ..
report and sat on it. And that meant that the report was not released for several months. Justice was delayed. So he has got form; he sat on the report.
In this case, there will be a report presented to the Chief Minister; it may well have adverse findings against him; and he will receive it. He can sit on it. How is justice going to be served by the Attorney General, who has an interest in these proceedings, who may have adverse findings against him, receiving the report and choosing when to release it? I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that all these things together, without impugning the motives of the Attorney-General, could easily, and would reasonably, be seen to be a conflict of interest and therefore justice will not be seen to be done.
The government is involved in a court action to shut down the inquest. That was one of the points I made. The government, by even joining that action, is contributing to the perception of an apprehension of bias. They have muddied the waters, but the average lay observer would look at this and say, “Something’s not right here; there are just too many different things going here.” Well, they would.
MR SPEAKER: Order! The matter of apprehension of bias is very clearly a matter before the courts at the moment and I would order you not to refer to it.
MR SESELJA: Thank you, Mr Speaker. To recap: we have a Chief Minister and Attorney-General who appeared as a witness in the inquiry; he is potentially subject to adverse findings; he has taken action to shut down the inquest. The report, when it is finalised by the coroner, is likely to be presented to him as Attorney-General. If there are recommendations flowing from the report, he, as head of the government, will need to implement them. Those things together represent a conflict of interest; they represent justice not being seen to be done. In these circumstances we would ask that the Attorney-General step aside so that justice can be seen to be done and the people of Canberra can get resolution on this very important issue.
This tragedy occurred on 18 January 2003. People are crying out for resolution. There has been delay after delay. This kind of thing is not helping and will serve only to muddy the waters when the final results of the coronial inquest are made clear.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.13): I put on the record in the early discussion on this matter that I believe that politics rather than justice is the motivation for its continual recurrence. But, as I understand it, there are two issues raised by this motion, both of which relate to the possibility that the coroner may report, under section 57 of the Coroners Act, findings to the Attorney-General. Each of these issues has, we believe, a pragmatic response—that is, one based on the facts of the matter and common sense.
Firstly, there is the matter of the conflict that is said to exist because the Attorney-General may himself appear before the coroner as a witness and could conceivably be the subject of an adverse finding or report by the coroner. This issue was addressed from a slightly different angle in the Assembly last year when a no-confidence motion was moved against the Chief Minister in relation to his recollection of events connected with the bushfire. The Greens supported the Chief Minister at that time, and we have had no further information that would suggest that we should take a different view now.