Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (23 March) . . Page.. 671 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
important that we not treat the granting of bail as a right in all circumstances. It was the commission's contention that, in effect, where very serious offences were concerned - where, for example, a person was charged with further offences while on bail - there ought to be a reversal of the assumption that a person was automatically entitled to further bail. I respectfully agree with that opinion. I understand that the Law Reform Commission is due to hand down its final recommendations to the community in the next few weeks. I can assure Mr Osborne and other members of this place that the Government's response to those recommendations will be very swift indeed.
MR OSBORNE: Thank you for that, Minister. I understand that you are to table some legislation on Thursday in relation to the Olympics and security. I would ask you this: Do you think that it is a waste of time, and what is the point, given that some members of the judiciary seem to think that it is okay to bail alleged bombers?
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, let me say that my position is somewhat difficult in these circumstances. It has traditionally been the role of the Attorney-General to defend the decisions and the actions of the courts. Traditionally, that has been the role. Traditionally, it has been assumed that the courts do not speak for themselves because that involves getting into a public debate and, traditionally, it has been left to governments, particularly Attorneys-General, to take that role on for them.
Mr Speaker, I believe that we should evolve somewhat from that position. I know that the Commonwealth Government has taken the view that some movement away from that position is appropriate. I think that, frankly, we need to think about that as well. The fact is that judges and magistrates are players in public debates in a whole variety of ways and some of the things that happen need to be explained on occasions by judges and magistrates, rather than relying on governments at arm's length to understand why decisions have been made and to take those decisions into the public arena and explain why they have been made. Quite frankly, on occasions it leaves you in a position where you may be defending something with which you do not agree, and I do not wish to be in that position if I do not have to be.
I think it is important for the community to be prepared to consider the issues that have been raised in these cases in a proactive sense. Reform of the law is always a matter for consideration. The area of bail needs to be reformed, in my view, and I look forward to the results of the Law Reform Commission's report so that we can embark on that process.
MR BERRY: My question is to the Minister for Education, who appears to have embarked on rationalisation of the education system on the basis of empty chairs and does not seem to be concerning himself with the quality of the good that is within our school system. Recent media attention surrounding the drug education policies points to the ACT spending a mere $150,000 a year directly on funding key drug-health problems in our schools. That is a quality issue, not a quantity issue. The Australian Federal Police Association has labelled the amount pathetic. The Minister for Education has