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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 474 ..

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (12.00): Mr Speaker, in rising to support this legislation, I think it is important to note that the Bill does give new power to the courts to empower the sheriff of the Supreme Court to take quite strong action to enter people's homes when they are not paying their debts according to court judgments. The way conditions and limitations have been crafted here is reasonable, and that is why I am supporting the Bill. The amendments do give the court more options in dealing with uncooperative judgment debtors.

Many people will remember a case last year of judgment debtors who were widely criticised as being recalcitrant having their house sold, and the difficulty was that the return was much less than it normally would have been, in relation to the amount to which they were indebted. It seems to me that being able to readjust those conditions is an important move by the Government, and I congratulate Mr Humphries for bringing this Bill forward. It was brought forward before I became a member of Cabinet. The Minister has identified a problem and worked out a method of resolving it without interfering with civil liberties.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (12.02), in reply: Mr Speaker, I thank members for their support for this legislation. I hope that it closes a rather unfortunate chapter in the history of our courts in which I think we would all agree something rather unfortunate happened to one particular family in Canberra. The legislation deals with an area of anachronism within the court rules. It needs to be said, however, that there are a large number of rules and other procedures of the court which go back a very long way and which probably could also suffer some potential flaw of the kind which is being addressed by these Bills.

What I am saying is that we need to ensure that the rules of the Supreme Court and the Magistrates Court are thoroughly reviewed to consider the extent to which they continue to serve as equitable and easy access to justice and the extent to which they are contemporary and not excessively complex in their operation. Mr Speaker, I think there is much work to be done in that field. I acknowledge that the rules committees of the courts concerned are addressing issues in that respect at the moment and that the Law Reform Commission of the Territory is also addressing aspects of rules of court. I look forward to both of those processes producing some reform of that body of rules in the not too distant future.

Mr Stanhope asked what was happening with the inquiry resulting from the particular matter he raised in his speech. I can advise him that my advice from the Law Society is that the inquiry into that particular matter is still ongoing and some resolution should be available in the next couple of months. Mr Speaker, on that score, I hope that we are able to proceed to put a number of reforms in place. This is perhaps only the first.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

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