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Canberra Today 4°/8° | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Hold the naps; why I want to be attorney-general*

“Taking a leaf from stumbling President Joe Biden, who is years older, I can get the healthy paycheque and still have my afternoon snooze, but in the Assembly.” Photo: Andrew Harnick/AP

Legal affairs columnist HUGH SELBY is prepared to foolhardily forego his afternoon nap for a year – “a real sacrifice” –  for his  fellow Canberrans and selflessly take on the role of attorney-general for whichever winning party will have him. But there are conditions… 

Once, a not so long ago, we had some idea of the policies promoted by the major political parties and how they differed.

Hugh Selby.

There was an expectation that we could think that there was something more to elections than noisy slogans and spin hyperbole.

The ACT government is responsible for functions that are elsewhere divided between local and state. We are electing representatives who should be able to present a coherent, logical plan about how to prioritise and then address such issues as waste and recycling, public spaces and roads, public transport, health services, education, urban planning and housing, police and the courts.

Their plans, of course, should set out the criteria for the priorities, and must tell us how it will be financed.

Readers of CityNews are aware of the expert consternation about, for example, our finances and debt rating, our land and housing planning, the long-term debt impact of that tram, and, the adequacy and management of health services.

However, when we search for such plans by the present government and the opposition there is nothing. Nature abhors a vacuum.

An Independents for Canberra Group will assist independents to run in this year’s territory elections. I wish them well, especially if each candidate publishes an explicit vision for our future, along with their policy priorities and how we are to be taxed.

The base remuneration for a member of the Legislative Assembly is about $183,000. That’s just the base. Very appealing when the accountability is four years down the road.

At my age the idea of running for office and, if successful, listening to career politicians’ waffle was unappealing.

I have changed my mind. How could I be any less competent than those we are now paying to keep us in the dark, while running up the debt that we and our children will have to pay?

Taking a leaf from stumbling Joe Biden, who is years older, I can get the healthy paycheque and still have my afternoon snooze, but in the Assembly. The waffle won’t unduly disturb my daily routine.

Selflessly I offer myself to the major party most likely to form the new government.

My terms are simple:

  1. I must be allocated the number two spot in each of their “how to vote” cards in my electorate;
  2. I must be the attorney-general (that’s quite enough work for a retiree);
  3. The following dozen matters must be addressed to my satisfaction within the first year, that is, before November 2025 (Most of the details can be found in my City News articles):
  • Volunteer rights and responsibilities in a statute so that all volunteer efforts are responsibly managed;
  • Handling of complaints about Courts and Tribunals to be upgraded. Applications that a judicial/tribunal officer not hear a case to be decided – not by that officer – but by this body. DPP decisions to be included within the jurisdiction of this complaints body;
  • Criminal procedure is to explicitly state that the assessment of any complainant and their allegations, no matter what the complaint, is to be rigorously objective, with explicit recognition by police investigators and ODPP staff of the cognitive biases to which we are all subject;
  • Sexual assault complainants to be encouraged, in many cases, to seek money compensation from their alleged assailant before the ACT Tribunal rather than have the DPP pursue a criminal sanction. Such a claim in the Tribunal will be decided on the balance of probabilities, instead of the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt;
  • Jurors to discuss with the trial judge each morning the media influences to which they are subject;
  • Criminal Procedure to prohibit acquittal comment by criminal trial judges that refers to the civil ‘balance of probability’ standard;
  • Acquitted accused to be able to seek an order from the trial judge that their legal costs be paid by the ACT government;
  • Inquests to be held not later than six months after a reportable death, save for the Coroner certifying as to objective reasons, for example, independent mechanical/scientific testing, that a delay is the interests of the bereaved and the public;
  • Government to be required to follow the recommendations of an independent panel when making appointments to court, tribunal, and statutory offices;
  • Prohibition upon statutory office holders being appointed for a second term, along with five years to be the maximum term of appointment;
  • Prohibition upon infrastructure projects (like trams) where the cost benefit analysis is not in favour of the project;
  • Amending the Inquiries Act to make clear that the Commissioner should release their report to the media and the Assembly on the same date, subject to such withholding of information as the Commissioner thinks necessary for reasons of privacy and safety;

In return for which I will then step down. Those who think I won’t honour the bargain don’t know how important a quiet place is for my afternoon nap: giving that up for a year is a real sacrifice, which I will make for my fellow Canberrans.

Besides, I want to enjoy a stress-free Christmas and the Boxing Day sales in December 2025.

*He’s kidding, of course. Hugh’s political ambitions need to be seen through the prism of this being April 1.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Hugh Selby

Hugh Selby

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