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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3104 ..

Ms Tucker (continuing):

Judges are expected by convention to refrain from politically partisan activities and to be careful not to take sides in matters of political controversy. If a judge breaks this convention, a Member may feel under no obligation to remain mute on the matter in the House.

MR SPEAKER: What is your point?

Ms Tucker: I ask for your ruling on that, because Mr Osborne is being prevented from expressing concerns on a matter about which I would suggest the magistrate has taken a political position.

MR OSBORNE: On that point of order, Mr Speaker: I do recall the Chief Magistrate making a statement in one of his courts a day or a couple of days after the initial legislation was passed. I think that clearly shows that he has taken a political stance on this matter, in condemning the legislation. I think Ms Tucker does have a point with that point of order.

MR SPEAKER: I am not aware of the Chief Magistrate making any comment.

MR OSBORNE: I will be happy to provide it to you, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: I do not know, therefore, whether it would be regarded as political. However, what I am noting on page 479, Ms Tucker, is:

'From time immemorial, the practice has been not to allow criticism of the judiciary; the honourable member may discuss the judgments of the court but not the judges'.

In the absence of any advice or evidence to the contrary, I must simply rule that we may discuss the judgments of the court but not a specific magistrate or a specific member of the judiciary. But I will investigate it if it is your wish, Mr Osborne.

MR OSBORNE: I would be happy to provide you with a copy of the transcript, Mr Speaker. I will be happy to come back to it tomorrow.

Mr Stanhope: Mr Speaker, I was going to make that request of you. I think this is a serious issue.

MR SPEAKER: I agree.

Mr Stanhope: I have expressed my serious concerns about this process. I have expressed serious concerns about what I regard as a campaign by the court, in company I believe with the Attorney and the Government, to undermine this particular piece of legislation. I think we should be able to debate that in this place. I had a prepared speech, and I regret that there are parts of that speech that I did not deliver that I would very much have liked to deliver, going to the attitude of the court and the Government in relation to this matter.

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