Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 1 July 2010) . . Page.. 3131 ..
When it comes to the appropriateness of the proposal, let me put some clear points on the table. One criticism has been, particularly from those opposite and, indeed, from others, that this will increase the work of the Magistrates Court. The government has very clear advice from the Chief Magistrate in this regard. He believes that the existing permanent complement of 6.25 magistrates in the Magistrates Court is sufficient to manage the work of the court as it is currently undertaken. There are 6.25 permanent positions. That is six permanent full-time magistrates and a quarter or a part-time special magistrate. What is the government proposing to do in relation to making a provision for funding in the Magistrates Court?
We are providing funding for 7.25 magistrates. That means that with two magistrates potentially appointed as judges of a new district court, the Magistrates Court will have exactly the same complement of judicial officers to do its work then as it does now. Is there any extra impost in terms of the work? Is there any draining away of existing resources from the Magistrates Court? No, there is not and the argument is fundamentally flawed. It is fundamentally flawed in that regard.
Some criticism has also been levied at the district court proposal because the suggestion has been that it has come out of thin air, that it has never been raised before. I refer members to the conclusions of the Supreme Court working group in this regard. The Supreme Court working group came to two fundamental conclusions. They said that if you want to address the workload problems in the Supreme Court, you essentially have two options. The first is to increase the number of judicial officers in the Supreme Court. The second is to change the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court—that is, provide for a broader range of matters that are currently dealt with by the Supreme Court to be dealt with elsewhere in a justice system.
That is exactly what the district court proposal does. It changes the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and it proposes the removal of a range of matters that are currently dealt with by the Supreme Court to be dealt with either in the Magistrates Court or in a new district court for the territory. So it should come as no surprise whatsoever that the government is proposing this course of action, because it draws completely and directly from the conclusions reached by the Supreme Court working group.
I note that the submissions that have been received and, indeed, the critique that Mrs Dunne provided made the suggestion that lesser reforms may solve this problem. In relation to those lesser reforms, let me deal with those. I deal first with the matter of bail. The government has already indicated that it will be introducing legislation to provide for reform of the bail process, particularly a review of bail applications, so that they can be dealt with entirely within the Magistrates Court. That is a matter that I will make further announcements on later this year, but the government has developed a comprehensive proposal already in relation to the bail matter.
Another suggestion has been made that the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court should be changed insofar as it relates to the civil matters that the Magistrates Court deals with and to lift that threshold from $50,000 to $100,000. The government has adopted that recommendation and will be proposing legislation to provide for that.