Page 479 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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course, there is a great irony that, in our determination, and in the determination of the court, to ensure that the inquiry is unencumbered, untrammelled and all encompassing and that there are no boundaries, that particular situation has arisen.

Mr Mulcahy: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought your instruction was that those issues were not to be canvassed during the debate.

MR STANHOPE: I did not canvass any issues. I talked about an irony.

MR SPEAKER: The Chief Minister was talking about matters that are on the public record before the court. They were not evidentiary matters. He is not arguing the case one way or the other.

MR STANHOPE: Let me say this about the attitude of the Liberal Party to this matter. The suggestion that I, as Attorney-General, or the ACT government, in participating in an appeal from a lower court to a higher court, am in some way impugning the integrity of the judicial officer involved in the lower court against whom an application has been made for review of a decision, or any suggestion that this in some way impugns the court or puts me in a position of conflict, is an absolute nonsense!

Governments around Australia on a daily basis, and this government perhaps on a weekly basis, make appeals and applications. It is about the administration of justice. It is about ensuring that the process works. This is what happens in legal systems. Appeals are made; questions are tested. It happens constantly. It happened under Bill Stefaniak as Attorney-General; it happened under Gary Humphries as Attorney-General; it happened under Bernard Collaery as Attorney-General. It is part of the role of the first law officer.

One of the issues relating to the first law officer that has not been well understood and that is, of course, being glossed over is the extent to which a first law officer has a role over and above politics. I accept that role. I understand the distinction and I respect it absolutely. But I do, from time to time, make decisions pursuant to my responsibility as the first law officer to ensure the integrity of the administration of justice in the ACT, and that is all I have done in this situation.

I think, in a political sense, it needs to be understood what the Liberal Party is saying to us about their attitude to justice and fairness. It is this: an Attorney-General, with advice, should pursue an issue that goes to the quality of the administration of justice. But if that action were to be seen in some way to question a position that a judicial officer has taken, it should not be pursued because it actually represents an attack on the court. The point about it is that it really represents an attack by the Liberal Party in this place on the principles of justice and fairness. It sends a very interesting and direct signal to all those people within our society and community who do, from time to time, put themselves in a position where they might very well be embroiled in the coronial process. Every police officer, every ACT government official, every public servant, ACT and commonwealth, needs to understand the attitude of this opposition, this Liberal Party, to them and the extent to which they will be sacrificed on the altar of the Liberal Party’s political agenda in this circumstance and in any similar circumstance.

Just imagine what we have here. We have got nine fine ACT public servants who, in pursuit of their commitment to this community, find themselves, simply as a result of

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