Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3099 ..

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (4.50): I think it is fair to say that the Children' s Services Amendment Bill (No 2) 1999 is yet another stage in what is a very sorry tale. It amends a Bill introduced by Mr Osborne in 1998 to require the designation of a specialist Children's Court Magistrate. The Bill was considered by the Justice and Community Safety Committee, passed by the Assembly on 17 February this year, rescinded, amended and passed again on 10 March.

As I have said, Mr Osborne's Bill to designate a specialist Children's Court Magistrate was referred to the Justice and Community Safety Committee. The committee took submissions from a wide range of parties. It received submissions in support of a specialist magistrate from, among other bodies, the Law Society of Australia, the Community Advocate and the Children's Services Council. As Ms Tucker noted in the debate on Mr Osborne's Bill, a specialist magistrate was recommended by a committee of the Third Assembly.

As Mr Osborne noted in his presentation speech, the Law Reform Commission in 1982 and the Community Advocate in 1995 recommended a specialist magistrate. There were submissions opposing the proposal, most notably from the Chief Magistrate and the Bar Association. The committee saw the objections being based mainly on the loss of flexibility and the possibility of burnout. To address these concerns, the committee proposed the designation of a Deputy Children's Court Magistrate, and this was included in an amendment by Mr Osborne.

I think it is common knowledge that Mr Hird dissented from his colleagues on the committee. Whilst debating the Bill, Mr Osborne claimed that Mr Hird was simply following directions in presenting his dissenting report.

The Bill was passed on the voices. After the Bill was passed -and we saw some evidence of this just now in the Attorney-General's presentation - Mr Humphries embarked on a misleading and I think petty response, and launched a campaign against the Act and Mr Osborne. That does him and the Government no credit at all. Mr Osborne's Bill did not make two consequential amendments. That is agreed. The Bill did not make two consequential amendments. The effect of these omissions was obvious. It was quite obvious and clear, and not a single court or lawyer of any consequence would have given any credence to Mr Humphries' claims at the time that the Magistrates Court had been abolished. These were the most puerile claims by the Attorney; that those two consequential amendments could possibly have led to the abolition of the Magistrates Court. Absolute nonsense!

An issue which was not pursued at the time and which was touched on just now by the Attorney was that at that time it was a fact that Mr Humphries and his department had had a copy of the Bill for months and had not noticed these two oversights within the legislation. That raises some questions as to the extent to which Mr Humphries' department actually looks at legislation that is presented. On 10 March, that problem that had been identified, minor as it was, was fixed with a rescission and a reconsideration of Mr Osborne's amended Bill.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .