Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 November 2005) . . Page.. 4192 ..
I accept the fact that there is an opportunity occasionally for judicial proceedings to be influenced by debate in this place, which is reported freely in the media. That will apply to judges, to juries, to magistrates. It depends, I suppose, on the strength and the experience of the individual holding that position. I am satisfied that in this territory that would not influence our judiciary, both judges and magistrates. Nonetheless, there is a risk of its happening, although I do not think it is a big risk.
Mr Seselja grins as though he has eaten somebody’s canary. The big risk, for me, is the risk of salient evidence being ruled inadmissible. That has been a possibility in this place in my time here with the application of the sub judice rule being challenged by one or both sides of the house. I wanted to put those concerns on the record. I happily support the Chief Minister’s position.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (11.16): I thank members for their comments. I think it is a shame that the government is seeing this as just a political matter, rather than what it actually is, and that is an attempt to codify the practice followed in other Australian states and jurisdictions for the benefit of this and future Assemblies. That is what this motion is about. In fact, both Mr Seselja and I spent some considerable time on the subject to ensure that what we replicated here is, in fact, a current practice.
Firstly, I thank Dr Foskey for her comments. With any debate in this place, when a member raises a point, the member must demonstrate ipso facto that the point is valid. That has to be demonstrated to the Speaker. The point of the motion is to put the onus on a member to demonstrate that they know what they are talking about and to substantiate their comments. Obviously, the Speaker rules in parliament. Nevertheless, as Mr Seselja said, we are quite happy to accept Dr Foskey’s amendment and I thank her for her contribution to the debate.
Chief Minister, this is not about the inquest into the 2003 fires. You seem to have an absolute hang-up about that. It is, in fact, about an attempt to clarify something that is vague and in need of clarification in this place. I will say a bit more about that later. As I said before, it is about codifying the practice in other parliaments. The Assembly, from time to time, has had issues with certain rulings. Mr Seselja and I have talked about codification in other parliaments. It helps the Assembly and it helps the Speaker. It does not matter who the government is; it applies equally. There are a number of motions of continuance in the standing orders and they have, by and large, stood the test of time.
The government is making great claims about how wonderful they were in opposition, how they never asked questions about coronial inquiries in the past. Members can correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to recall a censure motion as a result of a question. I seem to recall a motion of no confidence in the then Attorney-General in relation to something to do with the Bender coronial inquiry. The government probably needs to check the Hansard. It might find it is not quite as lilywhite as it would have people believe. I am not saying that what the opposition did at the time was the wrong thing to do.
We are not attempting to wind down the sub judice convention, as the Chief Minister alleges. We are simply attempting to codify it. The sub judice convention reinforces the basic principle that debate should be avoided where there is a substantial danger of prejudice to proceedings before a court. But there is also the overriding requirement for