Page 861 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2006

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Mrs Burke: He’s happy to respond to that.

MR SPEAKER: I’m in a good mood today; rephrase the question.

MR PRATT: Thank you, Mr Speaker—that is very sporting indeed—and thank you, Attorney. Attorney, when you are checking the facts, and if you are satisfied with the circumstances that I have outlined here to you today, under those circumstances will you consider tightening up the Bail Act?

MR STANHOPE: It is a very hypothetical question and I will not commit to respond. Suffice it to say—and I think it is reasonable for me to respond on the essential philosophy in relation to the way in which our courts operate and the separation of powers—I do not believe there is an issue or a deficiency in the provisions relating to bail. At the heart of the proposition put is that we need in some way to further circumscribe or narrow the discretion of magistrates and judges. It is this government’s essential position in relation to the operation of the courts that we appoint experts in the law, experienced practitioners, people with acknowledged legal expertise and experience, particularly in the criminal justice systems, to make those decisions on the basis of all the evidence before them. I am not one of those who are prepared to point a finger at the courts and suggest that, because they gave bail in this or that case and some subsequent event occurred, there was an error of judgment or the laws were deficient. We trust our magistrates and our judges to administer the law, and I do not believe the law is deficient because there might be one case where there was a recidivist offence or a reoffence as a result of a decision taken by a magistrate.

So I will not answer the question specifically; I will make the investigations that I have undertaken to make. But it needs to be understood that we invest in our magistrates and our judges’ significant authority and discretion, because they are the people with the expertise, they are the people with the person accused before them, and they make their decisions on the basis of every aspect of the circumstances. It is often easy at a distance, when one is not in possession of the facts and the fine detail of particular circumstances, to say, “Oh, well, there was obviously a mistake made.” More often than not I think it is fair to assume that there was not a mistake made; that, on the basis of the information available to the magistrate, they made the appropriate decision. It is the best system we have. I do not believe the law is deficient. At the heart of it is the need for us to have faith and confidence in our courts.

Hospitals—surgery times

MRS BURKE: My question is to the Minister for Health. I refer to comments by a Canberra surgeon, Dr David Hartman, who stated, amongst other things, that it was possible for him to perform four surgeries at the National Capital Private Hospital in the same time as it took him to do one surgery at the Canberra Hospital. Minister, why is the use of theatres at the Canberra Hospital so inefficient that surgeons are unable to perform surgery to their capacity?

MR CORBELL: Dr Hardman’s comments were overly simplistic and I want to address that in the first part of my response to Mrs Burke’s question. Dr Hardman has a contractual arrangement with the National Capital Private Hospital, which has a

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