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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (25 March) . . Page.. 889 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

legislation. It is, basically, very sound legislation. The Labor Party is pleased to support it. We are pleased to see it here before us. It needs two minor, non-offensive amendments which will improve it. I commend those two minor, non-offensive, non-costly, non-threatening, non-controversial amendments to members.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (5.06): Mr Speaker, I will not take very long as I think we have had enough debate about this matter, but I want to correct a couple of mistakes that have been made by the Opposition. I hope I will convince them to reconsider their position on this matter. Mr Speaker, I did not argue that the reason for opposing this amendment was the basis of costs - the cost to the community or the justice system. My argument about cost was in relation to the Bill as a whole. I said that the operation of the Bill as a whole would save the community money. If Mr Stanhope casts his mind back, he will recall that I mentioned costs substantially only in respect of the motion that we agree to the Bill in principle. I did not make that argument, at least not substantially, in respect of the amendments he moved. I had different arguments in respect of that. Mr Speaker, I am sorry that Mr Stanhope is not listening to this because it is quite pertinent to the issues he has raised.

Mr Stanhope: I am listening, Mr Humphries.

MR HUMPHRIES: Thank you. I hope you are. Let me make it clear to Mr Stanhope and members here that Mr Stanhope thinks - he is not listening, but I will make the point to others - that we are removing here a right that someone has to appear in person in court. We are not. There is already an inherent right in the ACT's courts and, to the best of my knowledge, in every other court in Australia from the High Court down to tribunals to exclude people, including parties, at their discretion in certain circumstances. So, to remove a right in certain circumstances to appear in person is not new. It is not being created by this Bill. In fact, this Bill is, in a sense, an acknowledgment of the power of the court to exclude somebody whose presence in the court may, for various reasons, be considered to be a disruption to the process of the court.

I do not know whether members have taken that on board, but the suggestion by Mr Berry in his remarks in this debate that we should have put up in big letters that we are removing a right is just not true. We are not affecting that right at all. Section 255 of the Magistrates Court Act already contains that right and there is a common-law right, an inherent power of the court, to conduct proceedings in the manner it sees fit, and it has the inherent power to deal with disruptive conduct amounting to contempt.

You might not believe me when I say that, so I indicate to you that I can prove what I say. If you wander over to the Magistrates Court building, and I particularly invite Mr Stanhope to do this, you will find next to court No. 1 - it might be court No. 2; it is one of those two courts - a soundproof booth. Do you know why that booth is there? I will tell you. It is there to place parties who are disrupting proceedings, but in order that those parties will be able to continue to hear what goes on, even though their right to personal appearance has been cancelled by the court. Mr Stanhope, I do not know how often you have appeared in courts in this land, but if you had you would know that the courts have an inherent power already to exclude people from their presence.

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