Page 4185 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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a privilege in relation to everything we say, but of course that particular privilege brings with it enormous responsibility. It requires a level of self-discipline and, in relation to the separation of powers and the role and responsibility of courts, an enormous responsibility to ensure that we do nothing in this place that disadvantages or affects anybody having to appear in a court to have a matter involving them dealt with and adjudicated by a court of law.

It is about recognition and acceptance of the separation of powers, the importance of supporting the rule of law and the fact that everybody is equal before the courts. The Leader of the Opposition has had to fight defamation actions over the last few years. Just imagine the implications for Mr Smyth if we had decided to debate in this place those defamation actions from Harold Upton and Ms Szuty—if we had chosen in this place to agitate and to debate whether or not Helen Szuty really was justified. But we did not; we respected the sub judice rule. If this motion of Mr Stefaniak’s passes, it is inviting us to debate these defamation actions that are pursued periodically against the Leader of the Opposition—in the first instance from Harold Upton and, secondly, from Helen Szuty—because these are of course matters of public importance.

Mr Smyth: And what happened with Mr Upton?

MR STANHOPE: What happened in relation to Harold Upton suing Brendan Smyth is that it cost the ACT taxpayer $44,000 to defend Mr Smyth. Then, when Helen Szuty sued Brendan Smyth, it cost the ACT taxpayer $55,000 to defend Mr Smyth in relation to that action. We have those staffing issues—two or three of you have been sued by your staff for wrongful dismissal. Is it seriously being suggested by you that, as would occur if Mr Stefaniak’s motion is accepted, you would have been happy for us in this place to discuss the basis of the civil actions taken against Mr Pratt and Mrs Burke? I think we know now that Mrs Burke or her company or her husband’s company is involved in some legal action. Do you seriously suggest we should begin to discuss those matters here? We do not; we respect the sub judice rule. But those are examples.

You are saying that you want the right to discuss in this place matters affecting other people outside this place; you want the sub judice rule abandoned so you can get to the nub of legal actions involving other ACT citizens. But does Brendan Smyth want his defamation actions discussed in here? I know Mrs Dunne has been pursued through the courts in relation to a couple of small claims matters. Did Mrs Dunne seriously suggest she wants us to discuss those matters involving her in the Small Claims Court? Does Mr Pratt want his staffing issues discussed? Does Mr Stefaniak want his staffing issues debated in this place as they are being pursued? Does Mrs Burke want her myriad matters debated? Some of them are quite titillating, of course, and matters for debate. They are matters, of course, that would interest and titillate us. Does she want those debated in this place? Of course she doesn’t.

Think about yourselves and think about whether you want us to debate your matters. You are happy to debate matters affecting people out in the community—but you do not want it for yourselves. Think about that when you vote on this.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The minister’s time has expired.

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