Page 3196 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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government of which I am a member, seriously believed that what was going to occur on 18 January was going to occur, I would not have been there. It just beggars belief that in some way there was some conspiracy and that the government knew: the government knew the fires were coming; the government knew they were going to impact on houses. My house was there.

What was I doing at midday on 18 January? I was sleeping in my home, with my children, with my partner. Where is the conspiracy? Where is it? Just ask yourself that basic, simple question. If the government seriously thought something was going to happen, surely I, as a member of the government, might have had some idea about it.

We go back to the allegations the Liberal opposition have made in past months about that cabinet briefing and cabinet being warned that something was going to happen and we did not tell anybody. I was at that briefing. We have put very clearly on the record what happened in that briefing. But there was no conspiracy. The sad fact for those opposite is that there was no conspiracy; there is no conspiracy. At every step along the line, this government has sought to ensure that the process has been conducted properly, in accordance with the best advice it can receive on it, so that we get the best possible outcome for the people of Canberra and to make sure that such an event never happens again in our community. That is our first, foremost and only consideration.

To suggest there is some sort of political agenda, about minimising damage, about hiding the truth, is just bunkum; just a massive conspiracy theory on the part of those opposite; and, as my colleague Mr Quinlan points out, only for the purpose of making political gain, political capital, trying to get themselves back into the debate about the good administration of this territory.

The other issues worthy of being raised in this debate, from my perspective, come to Mr Stanhope’s amendment and, in particular, the repeated facts that he outlines in his amendment where the opposition, and in particular the shadow Attorney-General, has deliberately misled this community as to what is being said by the law officers of the territory; by what is being meant in particular actions that are taking place in relation to the coronial inquiry.

Mr Stanhope makes a very valid and important point that nowhere has the Chief Justice of the territory suggested that the government’s action in joining the action in relation to the perception of bias against the coroner is a breach of the separation of powers—it simply is not—but Mr Stefaniak has wilfully ignored that, wilfully ignored the views of the Chief Justice, wilfully ignored the facts, to make a political point.

Further, of course, it is worth making the point also that in no way has there been a breach of the separation of powers. And this suggestion that the coroner is the government’s coroner also misses a fundamental point. The coroner is an independent judicial officer—an independent judicial officer, not the government’s coroner, not the government’s official. The coroner is independent. The Magistrates Court is independent. It is an institution in and of itself. We have no control over who is the coroner in relation to a coronial inquiry. We have no inputs in relation to what approach the coroner adopts in particular issues, except through the submissions that the territory can make in any coronial inquiry. So it is simply misleading again to make that claim.

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