Page 1377 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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monumental. The report states at paragraph 2.25:

The Attorney-General responded that the Eastman case has been continuing for a number of years with its expected conclusion pending the report of Justice Miles by the end of June 2005. The cost of the trial would include costs of his trial, various appeals and conviction as appropriated by the Bill. The amount would be in the millions of dollars.

I would like to find out exactly how much. I think it is something like $9 million. It could only happen in the ACT. Also, I do not know how, unless the attorney has a crystal ball, he could possibly say that this matter, which one would have expected to have been concluded years ago, is finally going to be concluded by the end of June 2005. That may well be wishful thinking. This thing may well have millions of dollars more to run. I certainly hope the attorney is right—that the conclusion will be some time this year and that this longstanding matter, which has caused great angst to Gwen Winchester and her family, will be resolved and finalised once and for all.

The other point is the coronial inquest for the bushfires, costing some $7.761 million until February 2005 and going up monumentally. I think the government maintains that $4.9 million may well be recoverable in terms of insurance, but we certainly have not seen the end of the spending of money—a lot of which did not need to be spent if the government had followed convention and had not taken the unprecedented step of appealing against its own coroner, which caused a lot of angst, as we know, in relation to issues such as the separation of power, conflict of interest and the very real concern in the community as to what the government has to hide.

It looks like a lot more money is going to be spent there, and indeed a lot of the money that has been spent already need not have been spent and should not have been spent by this government, by the attorney and Chief Minister, in terms of the government’s unprecedented step of taking the matter to the Supreme Court. Again, I do not comment about the nine individuals, but the government has wasted and has spent a lot of money that it should not have spent and which legal precedent and a number of other things indicate it should simply not have done.

I make those points in relation to this appropriation bill. I make one further point: I think there may have been one or possibly two supplementary appropriation bills during the term of the previous government—the government that was in for nearly seven years—but this government seems to be making an absolute habit of coming back and wanting to spend additional money. Maybe, hopefully, we have seen the last of these bills for a while, given the Treasurer’s and the Chief Minister’s little hints to the public that there is going to be a much tougher budget. But to continually bring in appropriation bills outside of the normal budgetary process is the sign of a government that simply is not managing the books well.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (5.42): I think my colleagues have summarised pretty much the way the opposition feels about the bill. Governments are entitled to their budgets and we will support the appropriation bill, as we always have, but I think the list of concerns that my colleagues have raised are things that the public are concerned about.

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