Page 4189 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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That is why Mr Stefaniak has brought this motion forward, because it will clarify that, yes, there are circumstances where the parliament should limit itself and not discuss matters; but they are very limited matters, very limited circumstances, and that needs to be demonstrated. It should not just be that because something is before a court we cannot talk about it. There are principles there, some of which I have outlined, that have come about through years of practice in the House of Representatives, in the Senate and in parliaments around this country, and it is absolutely crucial that we uphold those principles because it is fundamental to our rights as a democracy, our rights as a parliament, to discuss issues of public interest.

The final part of the test is in relation to the public interest. Even where it can be demonstrated—and I have not in this chamber had it at any stage argued or demonstrated that particular discussions could prejudice a case in any substantive way—even where that test is satisfied, the ruling and the practice in the Senate and in the House of Representatives has been that there is also a public interest test. If a matter is of sufficient public interest, even where it could prejudice proceedings, discussions should still be allowed to go on, because there is such a significant public interest in this being debated in the chamber. That is the other thing that needs to be remembered here.

The fundamental principle here is, firstly, that we need to demonstrate substantial prejudice or potential substantial prejudice and, secondly, even if that is demonstrated, we need to show that it would not be in the public interest to discuss it. In terms of precedents, the Hilton Hotel bombing was one major precedent where things were discussed in the House of Representatives and in the Senate about the Hilton Hotel bombing because it was such an issue of concern to the Australian public. Obviously, the comparable one in the ACT would be the coronial inquest into the bushfires, which had such a massive impact on the people of the ACT and is of such massive public interest to them.

I would suggest that, in circumstances around the coronial inquest, since the Chief Minister has raised that as an issue, you would need to show that it could substantially prejudice Coroner Doogan, and, secondly, you would need to show that it was not in the public interest to discuss it anywhere. In the 50 seconds remaining to me, I simply say that I do not think Dr Foskey’s amendment is ideal but, in the interests of compromise, it is important that we put something up that codifies it, so we will accept that amendment and support the amended motion as it is.

Let us just make this clear. Mr Stanhope was saying before about the coronial inquiry and about us debating things. This is about the public interest—and the blanket shutting down of all things related to court proceedings is in the government’s interest and no-one else’s. It is in their interest not to discuss these things. That is why they will oppose this. It is not because it goes against the sub judice convention. This reflects the sub judice convention as it has been the practice in parliaments all around Australia, and I would urge the Assembly to support the motion.

MR QUINLAN (Molonglo—Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Business, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (11.03): I have to say that many a time in my few years in this place, particularly on this side of the house, questions have been asked in relation to

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