Page 1257 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 27 March 2012

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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

MR SPEAKER (Mr Rattenbury) took the chair at 10 am, made a formal recognition that the Assembly was meeting on the lands of the traditional custodians, and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Sub judice rule

Statement by Speaker

MR SPEAKER: Last week, on Thursday, the Attorney-General spoke in the chamber and sought my guidance on the sub judice rule and how it applied to comments made the previous day by members of the opposition. Mrs Dunne also pointed out that continuing resolution 10, which deals with sub judice, deals with a discretion vested in the chair. I undertook to take advice on the request from the attorney and the matter raised by Mrs Dunne.

The advice I have received sets out important elements of the sub judice principles, examines the comments made on the day and draws a conclusion as to whether the sub judice principle has been adhered to. For the benefit of members I table the following paper:

Sub judice convention and Continuing Resolution 10—Advice from the Clerk to the Speaker, dated 26 March 2012.

As members will be able to read for themselves, the advice concludes that the comments from Mr Seselja and Mr Hanson do create a danger of prejudice to the proceedings, and continuing resolution 10 does apply to the comments.

In relation to the point raised by Mrs Dunne, I am mindful of the fact that continuing resolution 10 was agreed to by the Assembly in March 2008. Prior to that, the issue of sub judice had been dealt with by convention. I understand that members found that unsatisfactory, and, considering the importance of the matter, saw fit to adopt a specific resolution. I consider that to be significant.

I understand Mrs Dunne was raising a specific question as to whether the discretion was limited to the actual time at which the comments were being made and that, because the time has passed, the discretion has been extinguished.

I do not believe that is relevant to the request from the attorney. The attorney has sought my guidance on the application of continuing resolution 10 and I have undertaken to provide it. I am certainly not in a position to ignore a request for guidance and would be concerned about setting a precedent where the Speaker turned down a request for guidance.

As the debate where this breach occurred has now concluded, there is no scope for the chair to take further steps, other than responding to requests for guidance.

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