Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 2 Hansard (29 February) . . Page.. 469 ..
Debate resumed from 14 December 1995, on motion by Mr Humphries:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (11.43): The Opposition will support this legislation put forward by the Attorney-General. It is a general tidying up of the laws governing magistrates, principally. The provisions contained in the amendment Bill include a provision that a magistrate may not take up other paid employment without the approval of the Attorney-General, with the exception of work in the Commonwealth defence forces. It seems to me very sensible that magistrates ought not to have their loyalties divided by serving a master other than the courts.
There is a further provision in the amendment Bill that would require special magistrates to retire at the age of 70. I believe that this provision has been brought in to fit the particular circumstances of a particular magistrate whose services the courts wish to retain, and it does appear to be in the community interest that those services be so retained. However, the fact that there has been some difference in the retirement provisions between magistrates and special magistrates is a matter the Attorney-General may wish to give consideration to at some future stage. I cannot see any particular reason to have a difference between those two groups of magistrates, other than to fit the particular circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment. Other than that, the Bill deals mainly with technical issues regarding the bringing of witnesses to court and so on. It is, generally speaking, a housekeeping Bill.
I was somewhat surprised to discover that the Law Society had not been specifically consulted on the provisions of this Bill. It is something on which I would have expected the Government to seek the views of the Law Society, in particular because the changes made could have some impact on the way the Law Society's members do their work. Nevertheless, now that my office has had brief consultation with the Law Society, I am satisfied that the changes proposed in the Magistrates Court (Amendment) Bill present no difficulty to the Law Society. In fact, I think it is fair to say that they are fairly relaxed and comfortable about the whole package Mr Humphries is proposing. The changes are largely procedural, and I am informed that they are generally consistent with the Law Society's view.
We believe that the changes proposed in this Bill are a sensible tidying up, and we would always support legislation being made more transparent, more consistent and more efficient in its operation. It seems to me that that is very much the nature of the Bill before us, and for those reasons it will attract the support of Labor.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (11.47), in reply: Mr Speaker, I thank the Opposition for its support for the legislation. Ms Follett has already touched upon the two major provisions. There are obviously a large number of people in our community who provide various roles in the defence forces - not just full-time Defence Force personnel, but people who are active in the Defence Force Reserve and in other ways. It is important that we facilitate that kind of involvement by citizens who generally make an important contribution to the defence of Australia.