Winter Snow can’t Quench the Fires
As Maria Doogan again awaits for a superior colleague to decide upon her professional work as the ACT Coroner who competently investigated the 2003 fire storm that swept Canberra, resulting in the sad loss of life, the four Plaintiffs, Peter Lucas-Smith, Mike Castle, Tony Graham and Rick McRae, are also equally waiting with trepidation.
These four people were adversely commented upon in Coroner Doogan’s report and they are now embroiled in this last ditched stand to somehow have current history, rewritten. Legally anyway.
As ACT Supreme Court, Chief Justice Terry Higgins has once again presided over Coroner Doogan’s professional ability and has at this time reserved his decision in respect to this latest attempt at having the record changed; it is interesting to note that this time, he is alone on the bench and one wonders what this may mean?
Jon Stanhope who is the current leading citizen in the Territory, is noticeable by the absence of public interest he has payed to this legal challenge. One of which he and his team are obviously once again funding, at least in part. No doubt Jon Stanhope, so eloquently titled the Mayor by his predecessor, Kate Carnell, is just wishing this matter would disappear, especially as he has to go to the people and ask for a continuance of his sizable pay-check, later this year.
Well it’s not going to Mayor Jon, for it was you that publicly sprouted, “kick it to me, kick it to me” when the person to blame was sought after the disaster and as soon as that blame started coming your way, you and your spin team went into high speed, high finance, damage control.
There can be no doubt that Chief Justice Higgins is now in the same invidious position, legally, politically and socially that Coroner Maria Doogan found herself prior to making her official findings known. Constantly under attack almost from day one of her enquiry and to this date, well after those findings have been published, still very much so.
The difference is, Chief Justice Higgins has the power, to once and for all, bring down a decision that clearly puts all this to bed and lets the thousands of people traumatised and affected by this 2003 holocaust to rest and sleep easy. To fortify in their minds that in the ACT at least, the truth is not for sale and history cannot be rewritten by litigation. Not with the currency of money, or political pressure, nor to minimise, or maximise the future results of possible additional non-associated civil litigation.
Chief Justice Terence Higgins has a much more important and historic responsibility before him than he had as part of the full bench during the first attack upon the good Coroner. This time, he in fact is deciding on the most important findings, of all that Coroner Maria Doogan so bravely detailed. This time he in fact is seen by the public as sitting, not just on an issue of four men who want history rewritten, but is, in an act of singularity, going to decide the very core events, of the most historical fire-storm disaster to ever hit this Nation.
In effect, Chief Justice Higgins, this time, is about to re do, by deliberating on this matter, Coroner Maria Doogan’s most eminent work in respect to her enquiry into the January 2003 ACT disaster. Never, has Chief Justice terry Higgins, had so many eyes focused upon him. No wonder he has reserved his decision today. The very future of Australian coronial law, may well hang in the balance.