Page 1169 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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morning on ABC radio, within the territory we have a history and culture in relation to coronial inquests that they are full and free ranging, and that there is no aspect of the matter that a coroner would not, through the coronial process, inquire into. Mrs Carnell indicated this morning, in relation to the hospital implosion, that the Coroner’s Court inquired in such detail, even to the extent of the colour of their socks. I think that was the expression Mrs Carnell used this morning on the basis, most particularly, of the memory of the hospital implosion. This government had absolutely no belief or expectation that the scope of the inquiry pursued by the Coroner’s Court in relation to the fire would not be the same as the scope, extent or nature of the inquiry that was pursued in relation to the hospital inquest.

Mrs Carnell expressed I think very clearly and bluntly this morning that there was simply no aspect of any matter relating to the hospital implosion that was not before the coroner and was not accepted by all parties represented before that particular inquest as something that would not be covered. That was our expectation in relation to this inquest. It is the practice and custom of the Coroner’s Court in this place to reach very broadly, to take a wide view of the power or jurisdiction of the court, and to exercise that jurisdiction. It is what we expected and it is consistent with past practice. As I say, Mrs Carnell expressed it absolutely, and I am in full agreement with her. There was no aspect of the hospital implosion that was not covered by the coroner, and our expectation was that the inquest into the fire would be pursued in exactly the same way.

That is our position; we stand by it. Those are the submissions the ACT government is making to the Supreme Court. I have no reason to expect that the Supreme Court will not accept the submissions of all counsel presenting before it in relation to the question of the extent of the jurisdiction of the Coroner’s Court. I also make the point, as I have made it before, that we have in Ron Cahill a Chief Coroner I think unsurpassed in terms of longevity and experience. As Chief Coroner for 20 years, he has been responsible for the carriage of probably hundreds of coronial inquests.

It would surprise me if the Chief Coroner of the ACT, particularly one of such experience and longevity, did not know the extent of his powers and the powers of his courts. At no stage have I had reason to doubt. There has been no suggestion to me, that I am aware of, that the coroner’s powers were in any way constrained to the extent that aspects obviously relevant to the fire could not be included within the ambit of the inquiry or the inquest.

MR SESELJA: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Attorney, will you provide information on the advice sought and received to the Assembly today?

MR STANHOPE: I will not do it today, no.

Student unions—legislation

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is the minister for education. Minister, yesterday the federal minister for education introduced anti-student organisation legislation into the House of Representatives. Could you tell the Assembly what impact this legislation will have on university services and student representation, if it is passed by the federal parliament?

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