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Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Page: 7723

Mr TURNBULL (3:12 PM) —My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Isn’t it the case that, by rushing out to get a headline prior to the end of the Benbrika trial instead of waiting for its conclusion, he has put at risk the outcome of the biggest terrorism trial in our history and needlessly given a ground of appeal to those convicted?

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question was in contravention of standing order 100(d)(ii), (iii) and (v).

The SPEAKER —Many of the questions that are asked in this place contravene a number of subsections of that standing order. To the extent that the core of the question is in order, I call the Attorney-General.

Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) —For a start, in answering the Leader of the Opposition’s question, Mr Benbrika’s convictions had been confirmed at the time of my statement. If I can refer to the submissions from the Crown—these were made before his Honour:

In our submission it is clear from the context of what was said by the Attorney-General that he was there speaking in respect to those counts in which a verdict of guilt had been returned, that is, concluded. In any event nothing in the passages where he expressed the views he has in our submission could reasonably be taken as being in any fashion an observation upon those counts which were yet to be decided. It is clear enough, we would submit, from the introduction of what he has to say, that he recognises the jury is still deliberating—

Which I did.

—and in respect of those ‘it is inappropriate for me to comment on the detail relating to those matters.’

That is the quote from me. The Crown went on:

It is expressed from what he is saying that he is speaking in respect of counts that the jury have delivered.

And that was most certainly the case. His Honour dismissed the application by the defence—who I might say had made a number of applications during the course of these proceedings for the discharge of the jury—and made, in all bar two pages of transcript, a submission here.

I was asked about the purpose of my comments. I can simply repeat my answer: my comments were not directed to the matter before the courts. I specifically stated that. It was my role as Attorney-General to reassure the community that our security agencies were doing all that they reasonably could to protect their safety. I also saw it as very important that while, yes, individuals had been convicted of very serious offences, the blame for conduct of those individuals should not be sheeted home to the broader Muslim community.