Barr says Liberal push for CTP inquiry based on big election donation
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Barr says Liberal push for CTP inquiry based on big election donation

A Canberra Liberals' bid for an inquiry into the ACT government's citizen's jury on compulsory third party insurance is based on a big election donation from a prominent lawyer, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has alleged.

Liberals leader Alistair Coe said he would try to send the jury process to the Justice and Community Safety committee, after concerns the deliberative democracy pilot had been undermined.

Opposition leader Alistair Coe and Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Opposition leader Alistair Coe and Chief Minister Andrew Barr.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

That came after an ANU academic found while the exercise in deliberative democracy was worthwhile, the close involvement of expert decision makers in the jury's deliberation stages risked undermining the autonomy of jurors.

He also found the public framing of the issue favoured abandoning the current model and jurors did not have enough time to get a good grasp of the subject matter.

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In question time on Wednesday, Liberal politicians asked Mr Barr why the government had made public statements politicising the issue, when it was referred to a citizen's jury to depoliticise it.

Mr Barr said, "if anyone if politicising this it's the Opposition".

"I know why you are politicising this and any independent observer would simply need to go and look at the single largest donation by an individual in the ACT's political history to understand why it is that those opposite hold the opinion they do," Mr Barr said.

Mr Barr was referring to the record-breaking donation Forrest couple Craig and Eva Edwards gave to the Canberra Liberals in September 2016.

The $95,000 donation was the biggest donation by an individual in the ACT's history.

Mr Edwards was a personal injury lawyer and partner in Maliganis Edwards Johnson. He was also a member of the Liberal party.

He told the Canberra Times in October 2016 he was spurred to donate the large sum because of his opposition to the tram and wanted to curb the excessive influence of developers on the government.

Mr Coe said the Liberals had a long-standing policy on CTP insurance that had not changed, despite the donation and meetings with Mr Edwards.

"The Canberra Liberals do not accept donations that are tied to policies or outcomes. All donations received by the party are in support of the party's election campaign efforts," Mr Coe said.

"Mr Edwards is a party member and supporter and, like other party members, I expect that he would like to see a Liberal government in Canberra for many reasons.

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"I have met with members of the Law Society, including Craig Edwards, to discuss a range of issues. I have also seen Mr Edwards at Liberal Party events. I expect that other MLAs have engaged with the Law Society, including Craig Edwards, in the past year."

This story has been updated after the Canberra Liberals provided an updated statement clarifying Mr Coe had also met with other members of the ACT Law Society.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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