Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008-2009 Week 1 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 164..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
On the whole, those two amendments will also help to make smoother the sometimes difficult situations that might arise where, but for a formal adoption, an intestate death in the family means an unadopted family member may suddenly find themselves on the outer when it comes to distribution of the estate. This notwithstanding that member may, for all intents and purposes, have been a member of that family for a long period.
These amendments will modernise our law and bring us up to speed with almost every other jurisdiction in the country. I commend the bill to the house.
Debate (on motion by Mr Corbell) adjourned to the next sitting.
Law Officer Amendment Bill 2008
Mrs Dunne, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.
Title read by Clerk.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (10.55): I move:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
This is a simple bill which has significant consequences—consequences that will create more certainty for all people in our legal system in the ACT. This bill seeks to achieve one thing—that is, to make the Attorney-General more accountable for the delivery of justice in the ACT. It does this by requiring the Attorney-General to ensure that litigation started and conducted on behalf of the Crown in right of the territory, the territory itself, a minister, or a person suing or being sued on behalf of the territory is started and conducted in accordance with proper standards.
The bill empowers the Attorney-General to set those standards of litigation by way of model litigant guidelines using the vehicle of a notifiable instrument for the purpose. It is worth noting that we already have model litigant guidelines and this legislation is designed to raise the status of those guidelines. Anyone performing territory legal work would be required to comply with these guidelines. However, for individuals who act on behalf of the territory in litigation matters, the bill also provides protection from civil liability for those individuals who act in good faith and with honesty. The territory will be required to shoulder the burden of civil liabilities where these might arise.
Importantly, this bill requires the Department of Justice and Community Safety to implement measures to ensure compliance with the guidelines. The department will also be required to report on those measures, as well as any breaches of the guidelines, in its annual report.
I turn briefly to the broader impacts of this bill. In summary, model litigant guidelines require government to behave at the highest possible standard in all its legal dealings. Civil Liberties Australia CEO Bill Rowlings, in an article entitled "The very model of a model litigant", published in the Public Sector Informant on 4 November 2008, noted in relation to the Commonwealth that "it is not supposed to win at all costs". I