Page 4209 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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Mr Smyth: Point it out. Point out where.

MR QUINLAN: I think it is the case—to your discredit. Anyway, that is you. The government is in the process of putting its budget together. It will put its budget together. It will be a practical budget. It will be a budget that best serves the people of the ACT, given the level of services and the level of expectation that exists in the ACT about services.

Although from time to time criticisms are raised and incidents are taken out of context and are put forward as being indicative of the whole picture, the level of services provided in the ACT is high. The expectation of people in the ACT is high. That creates pressure on any government at any time in the ACT. The Grants Commission process sets us up to be, in theory, on a level footing with other states and territories in terms of taxation. While our gross taxation levels are maybe a smidgin above, but about, the national average, our levels of service tend to be, in the overall context, above the national average. There is a real effort involved in maintaining that.

Legal advice—professional privilege

MR STEFANIAK: My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, you have consistently stated that, on the grounds of professional privilege, you could not release the legal advice you obtained which you have said encouraged you to believe you should take legal action against your own coroner, Ms Doogan, on the grounds of apprehended bias and which made you believe your appeal would actually be successful. Yet, Attorney, you have now published all your legal advice on the anti-terror legislation and in fact asked the Prime Minister to publish his. Why does the principle of professional privilege not now apply?

MR STANHOPE: The legal professional privilege about which the shadow attorney speaks and about which I have spoken previously applies to all legal advice provided to all governments in every instance. As a matter of principle and of practice, governments generally do not release their legal advice.

Mr Smyth: Except when it suits them.

MR STANHOPE: Of course. There is a whole range of circumstances that apply in relation to the provision of legal advice, such as the subject of the legal advice or the purpose or nature of the legal advice. Legal advice that the ACT government received in relation to the coronial inquest goes to matters that are currently being agitated in a court. Yesterday and again today we have had interesting chats about the sub judice rule. At the heart of the debate we had this morning was the underlying principle of ensuring that anybody who might be affected by a matter being agitated before a court should be protected until the matter is concluded.

There are a number of parties with a significant personal interest in the coronial inquiry and in the outcomes of the inquiry. They are people whose reputations are very much on the line and who have a very real interest in the effect or impact of any advice that would in any way touch on their positions or reputations, indeed their legal rights, in respect of a matter that is currently before a court.

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