Page 2813 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 17 August 2005

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government; we do it constantly, whether they are cases that involve the Commissioner for Fair Trading in tribunals or whether it is defending nurses, doctors and other employees in the hospital in civil actions that are taken regularly against the territory. As anybody that has been in this place or follows public life knows, our doctors, our nurses, employees in hospitals, employees involved in motor vehicle accidents whilst on duty, employees involved in providing care within the disability sector, and our corrections officials are regularly involved in legal action and the government defends them. We defend them, and we support and pay for their defence. We do not pick and choose along the way when we start and stop.

Here, all of a sudden, it is suggested that there is a group of employees here that we should as a rule, through a motion of the Assembly, just determine something that we have never done in relation to a doctor, a nurse, a disability employee, a policeman or a corrections officer. We never say, “We will support you to this point and then we will stop.” No government does.

There is one precedent—and it is extraordinary—and that is the precedent that the Liberal Party has seized on in relation to Bundaberg hospital. But that is the exception; that is not the rule. The rule is that a government, as a good and modern employer, will support its employees. At the end of the day, through the system, it is fundamentally important that the rule of law, of natural justice, due process, apply to our employees, just as we expect it to apply to everybody else in any other situation or circumstance involved with the judicial system or the court system in our community.

That is the basis on which I acted and it is the basis on which the government has continued to act. In the decision I have taken in relation to the appeal, I have said, “Right, issues of concern were raised. They were serious, genuine issues of concern. They were agitated. The application was unsuccessful.” I have said, “Despite my continuing advice that the judgment essentially was wrong, it is time to draw a line in the sand, in recognition of another public interest, namely, the public interest that this matter be concluded.”

There is no great conspiracy here; there is no cover-up; there is no nobbling; there is no desire to avoid scrutiny. There never was or never could be. If the application had been successful, another coroner would have been appointed. The evidence was on the table. Another coroner would have continued to call those witnesses they desired; they could have recalled any witness they wished; and they would have produced to the court in any event. This suggestion that this was about undermining, cutting off or nobbling is just nonsense. It is an attack essentially on the independence of the judiciary.

This matter would have concluded, will conclude, always was going to and will, and the government supports that process. This is a recognition of due process, the operation of the court and the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers. I commend my amendment.

MR SPEAKER: The Chief Minister’s time has expired.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.16): I have come along at the end of this discussion. Therefore, I feel slightly at a distance from it, not having been involved in probably the early passionate and difficult days when people were deciding what to do after the fires.

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