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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3501 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

It is an extremely serious thing to keep a person out of the courts. I think it should be rare that we exclude somebody from access to the courts. Even the most intractable of litigants may have a point of substance buried in their case and we do need to be patient in dealing with them. I am mindful of an observation in regard to the difficulties of dealing with vexatious litigants made by the then Justice Kirby in the case Re Attorney-General of the Commonwealth and Another ex parte Skyring. I think this is very important in the context of the debate about vexatious litigants. Justice Kirby said:

First it is always important for every judge to keep an open mind in case a person who has been rejected by courts in the past may have, hidden among the verbiage of his or her arguments, a point which has not been previously seen and which may have merit. Vigilance and not impatience are specially required where that person is not legally represented.

Secondly, it is regarded as a serious thing in this country to keep a person out of the courts. The rule of law requires that ordinarily a person should have access to the courts in order to invoke their jurisdiction. It is a rare thing to declare a person a vexatious litigant.

I think Justice Kirby sums it up. It is a rare thing to declare a person a vexatious litigant and I do not believe that the Government has made the case for the need for this provision in the ACT. There is no real indication in the Government's case of the number of vexatious litigants or the extent of the problem of vexatious litigation in the ACT. I do not believe that the case has been made for such an important change that denies people access to the courts. The case has simply not been made and it cannot be sustained. I do not believe that any serious attempt has been made to justify this Bill.

It is also notable that yesterday the Government and the Osborne group rejected legislation designed to keep people out of gaol and to allow children access to the Community Advocate. I think it is ironic that today we are debating a further piece of legislation designed to keep people out of the courts. The Labor Party will not support this proposal until the Government makes a justifiable case for the declaration of people as vexatious litigants.

MR WOOD (4.56): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, quite probably the Opposition will be opposing this Bill and both of the particular measures it contains. One in particular is an absolutely outrageous proposal. First of all, let me deal with that about the salary of the most recent justice of the Supreme Court, good man that he may be. I recall that when Mr Humphries announced that appointment - you will correct me, Mr Humphries, if I am wrong - he said that he would not have a full judge's role because there was not at this stage the workload for it, and that he may also have a role in looking at, for example, the rules of the Supreme Court or some such thing.

Mr Humphries: I did not say anything of the sort, Mr Wood.

MR WOOD: You did not? All right. I withdraw what I said, Mr Humphries. I will go back into my old files and see what I can find, but I will not pursue that argument.

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