Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 August 2017) . . Page.. 2326 ..
I again extend my sympathies to the family. I have confidence in the work we have done to date over many years, sadly prompted by considerable distress to the Hartigan family, and we will continue to progress this area, including the animal welfare and management strategy. I believe these will go a long way to addressing many of the animal welfare and dangerous dog matters raised in this Assembly.
MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (10.42): I firstly congratulate Mr Doszpot for once again in this Assembly bringing forward such a matter of compassion. Mr Doszpot has a very well-earned reputation for this, and I know you will not let go of this fight, even if you are unsuccessful today with your motion.
It was a very weak response from the Treasurer and Ms Le Couteur to essentially dismiss it and bat it away. But the response from Ms Fitzharris was interesting in that she admitted there was a problem. She admitted that this terrible attack was the catalyst for a whole range of changes. Is that not an admission of culpability? Is it not admitting that, as a consequence of this terrible attack of which this young fellow was a victim, the government has then made a whole range of changes? That is an admission that there was a significant problem in the processes and structure so the government had to make changes.
But it would seem that, even though we have what is tantamount to an admission from the minister that this attack prompted a whole range of changes, the victim of this attack will be ignored by the government. The government will now change all its procedures, but the person who is essentially paying the price for all of this will be ignored by this government.
That speech by the minister today will potentially be of great interest if there are any subsequent legal challenges to this decision. I am not a lawyer; I am just making the point in this place. I have real concerns, both legally and morally. There is no question that the government and the Greens are wrong on both counts when it comes to the definition of ex gratia payments and what they are for. We have seen that this ex gratia payment has been refused in part because the legal avenues explored by the family have been exhausted. But that is the whole point of an ex gratia payment: to provide some relief despite no legal compulsion, not because of it. I will quote from the territory’s own Financial Management Act, section 130, act of grace payments:
(1) If the Treasurer considers it appropriate to do so because of special circumstances, the Treasurer may authorise the payment by a directorate … of an amount to a person (the payee) although the payment of that amount (the relevant amount) would not otherwise be authorised by law or required to meet a legal liability.
To say that there is no legal case here is the exact point. I go back to Mr Barr’s speech where he says he sought advice. The legislation does not refer to the Under Treasurer or a nominated bureaucrat who may have written a piece of advice. It is for the Treasurer in this circumstance to demonstrate leadership and make decisions. To bat this away saying, “Well, I didn’t like the advice,” or “The advice that came in said something different,” then what is the point of having a Treasurer? You may as well walk out of this place, Mr Barr, if you are not capable of making decisions that clearly are warranted in this case.