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There was no doubt that the existing law in the ACT in a sense benefited both bad debtors and bad creditors. People who were trying to do the right thing, whether they were debtors or creditors, often found that the law was difficult and cumbersome. The minor gap in the legislation meant that people, the Christopher Skases of the ACT, could basically thumb their noses at the court and refuse to front despite the fact that a warrant had been issued through a judicial process, by a registrar but on the authorisation of a magistrate so that you had all the safeguards. The bailiff could front up at Chez Skase, be it in Kambah or Narrabundah, and the elusive Mr Skase could sit behind the door and thumb his nose at the bailiff. That clearly was a problem. The bailiff had no powers.
While on the face of it a law that allows a bailiff to come and knock your door down may seem a little excessive, this exercise may occur only after it has been authorised by a magistrate, and the Bill limits the bailiff to reasonable force. It seems to be a safe and sound law. The temptation for me to say that Mr Humphries is sending the bailiffs around to bash your door down was one that I was able to resist. The Opposition is able to support this legislation, which simply corrects a minor lacuna in the law. I am sure that if we were to receive reports of high-handed behaviour by bailiffs or by sheriffs officers - fortunately, in the ACT that has not been a matter I have ever heard complaints about - the Government would be quite happy to review this Bill, but that should not be necessary. The Opposition supports the law.
The Bill also contains some minor consequential changes resulting from changes to the Land (Planning and Environment) (Consequential Provisions) Act which were not picked up in the original very substantial Bill.
MR MOORE (11.49): Mr Speaker, shock, horror, Mr Humphries and Mr Connolly have got together. Mr Connolly had started on this process, so now he cannot back off, and Mr Humphries has continued it. Between them they have an agreement to go and bash doors down, and to get big dogs to go with them as well. That force would be seen as necessary and reasonable in the circumstances that Mr Connolly mentioned. I had the same reaction as Mr Connolly in the initial instance when I read this Bill. It was only on checking it and seeing that in fact the use of force to enter premises has to be authorised by a magistrate - this Bill relates to the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court - that my mind was eased somewhat in the same way as Mr Connolly’s was.
I must say that when I first saw this piece of legislation I had exactly the same reaction as Mr Connolly. I thought, “What is Humphries up to this time? We had move-on powers before, but this really leaves the move-on powers for dead. A bailiff can just decide that he wants to knock down a door, and away he goes”. That is certainly what you would think on reading the Bill. But, with the normal protections of the Magistrates Court, quite clearly it is appropriate that this power be extended in order to carry out the normal process of law when people are required to appear in the Magistrates Court.