Page 2694 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 16 August 2005

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We see, in the process of the proceedings that we witnessed over the last 10 months, in fact, the process and administration of justice working. There were serious issues raised with the government. I have previously indicated that they were raised with the territory by a number of very, very eminent counsel, including, most notably, Peter Johnson SC, who was at the time representing the territory at the coronial inquest and who is now a justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court—an opinion that was supported by Lionel Robberds QC, in independent and separate advice to the territory in relation to the issues of concern that have been raised, and subsequently of course confirmed by Richard Tracey SC and James Glisson QC.

On the strength of the opinions of those counsel and following a decision by nine individuals represented separately before the coronial inquest, it is true, as we know and as a matter of history, that I, as Attorney-General, faced with the issues that were put before me, decided to join that action—an action which had already been decided by those individuals be instituted—in relation to the same issues.

I think it is worth noting that, as the recipient of advice, of opinions, from people such as Peter Johnson SC, Lionel Robberds QC, confirmed subsequently by Tracey and Glisson, I was faced with those options that the shadow attorney raises and mentions. I did have a choice, as we all do. Of course, as the first law officer, I have a range of responsibilities. One of the fundamental responsibilities of the first law officer, a position which I think is not adequately understood and certainly not acknowledged by the shadow attorney or the Liberal Party, is an overriding responsibility, as first law officer and consistent with the Law Officer Act of 1992, to accept responsibility for the administration of justice within the territory and everything that that means and everything that that incorporates and requires. The administration of justice is a fundamental and very, very important aspect of the role of attorney.

The role of attorney is perhaps more complex than that of other ministers. An attorney-general, in addition to being a politician of course, completely represents a party and a government. An attorney-general also, of course, is responsible for pursuing policy initiatives in relation to law and justice and pursuing those policy imperatives. But the attorney, as well as those roles as the political voice or representative in relation to the law and justice, as well as the minister with administrative responsibility for a department for pursuing policy and oversighting the management and the administration of justice, as the first law officer, has a role over and above those other politically administrative roles which other ministers, through their portfolios, possess and pursue.

The first law officer, acknowledging the sensitivity of issues around the separation of powers, the sub judice rule and issues around contempt, has an additional responsibility in the context of the separation of powers for ensuring that there is public confidence in the administration of justice and overall has that responsibility for maintaining public confidence in the rule of law and the administration of justice, as reflected indeed through courts, tribunals and all of those other incidents that are part and parcel of the administration of the law. That is a fundamental responsibility.

Faced with advice around significant issues going potentially to the administration of justice, I, as attorney, made that decision. I don’t resile from the decision; it was

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