Page 2695 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 16 August 2005

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appropriate in the context of the advice I received; it was appropriate in the context of the fact that the matter would have been pursued in any event. So I stand by the decision I took.

I said this morning, and I have said previously, that I think there is a very, very important public interest in seeing a timely conclusion to the coronial process. I regret enormously the 10-month delay in the proceedings. I have said and acknowledged—and I acknowledge again—that I did not, in my thinking at the time I took the decision in late September, early October last year, imagine that the matter would take 10 months to conclude.

I do not know whether it would have been relevant to my decision. The decision I took was a decision taken as a matter of principle, but certainly I did not image for one minute that it would take 10 months. I regret the fact that the delay has been that extensive. I think, if I reflect back, that I would have perhaps thought that the matter could have been dealt with in the space of two or three months and would have been concluded perhaps even by Christmas last year, not August this year.

The other issue that has been raised, of course, is the issue of cost—an issue that has been raised and on which the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow attorney, in particular, have put the most enormous spin, knowing, as they do, that the majority of the costs incurred by the government in relation to coronial processes are covered by the territory’s insurers; knowing, as they do, that the enormous spin that they have put on the cost of $1.8 million is simply false. It is simply not true. The costs that the territory incurred in pursuing the matter in its role as the territory, in fact, were entirely covered by insurance. The costs which were incurred on behalf of the nine separately represented individuals were entirely covered by insurance.

So this outrageous spin, reflected again in the motion, of wasting $1.8 million of taxpayer funds is simply false; it is not true. Mr Stefaniak knows it is not true; Mr Smyth knows it is not true. But they just peddle it for the sake of the story and because of the flavour it gives, the opportunity to take some political skin from my jaw and to cause political damage to me. They are out there spinning this outrageous $1.8 million cost to taxpayers, which is a complete fiction.

I make the point in relation to that—to the extent that it does reveal the tawdry side of the political attacks that are launched on the government, the tawdry aspect, the hypocrisy and the humbug—that here is a party, here is a group of individuals who have, over the last couple of years, not hesitated to come to the government for funding of their separate legal actions, the actions that they are involved in.

Over the last couple of years the ACT government has funded a wrongful dismissal action taken against Mr Steve Pratt, a wrongful dismissal action taken against Mrs Helen Cross, a defamation action pursued against the Leader of the Opposition, a wrongful dismissal action taken against Mrs Burke, with sundry other tawdry allegations related to that referred to the Human Rights Commission as well. And we have paid. We have paid over $100,000 to defend Mr Pratt in his sundry tawdry legal actions; Mrs Burke, in her tawdry legal actions; Mr Smyth, in relation to his defamation; and Mrs Cross; as well, of course, as the enormous cost which the taxpayer has been required to bear, and continues

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