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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 February 2007) . . Page.. 15 ..

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am, made a formal recognition that the Assembly was meeting on the lands of the traditional owners, and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Sub judice convention and standing order 54

Statement by Speaker

MR SPEAKER: Members, I wish to make a statement concerning the application of the sub judice convention. The sub judice convention, as described in the fifth edition of House of Representative Practice, is:

… subject to the right of the House to legislate on any matter, matters awaiting adjudication in a court of law should not be brought forward in any debate, motions or questions.

Members will be aware that there is an appeal pending in relation to adverse findings made by the coronial inquiry into the cause of death of four persons in the January 2003 bushfires. The adverse findings made against four ACT public servants are being challenged by those public servants.

In deciding whether to invoke the convention for today’s debate, I intend to follow the principles that are set out in the 11th edition of Odgers—namely, that there should be an assessment of whether there is a real danger of prejudice in the sense that it would cause real prejudice to the outcome of the proceedings; that the danger of the prejudice must be weighed against the public interest in the matters under discussion; and that the danger of prejudice is greater when a matter is actually before a magistrate or a jury. My ruling is that, in relation to the matter still before the court, members should restrain their comments about the adverse findings made against the four public servants involved.

I also advise members that standing order 54 requires that members may not use offensive words against any member of the judiciary. Also, section 14 of the Judicial Commissions Act 1994 states:

A member of the Legislative Assembly must not raise in the Assembly a matter that relates or may relate to the behaviour or physical or mental capacity of a judicial officer—

(a) except by way of a motion to have a specific allegation made in precise terms in relation to the judicial officer examined by a judicial commission; and

(b) unless the member has given to the Attorney-General not less than 5 sitting days notice of the motion and the member has not been notified by the Attorney-General within that period in accordance with section 16 (2) that the Executive has been requested to appoint a commission to examine the allegation.

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