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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (9 May) . . Page.. 1408 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

There is, therefore, no reason to think that the courts will start making reference, as a matter of course, to international human rights instruments when they work out the meaning of an act. If they want to do that, they can do it now. This section does not enhance or detract from their capacity to have regard to international human rights instruments in any way. The courts can, and already do, make reference to these instruments in appropriate cases. We know the cases. There do not appear to be any difficulties with the operation of the existing law.

International human rights instruments are an important part of the background against which ACT legislation is enacted. Although common law already permits access to them, at least in cases of ambiguity, the government's view is that example 7 in proposed new section 142 is a valuable signpost. It confirms that the Assembly recognises that human rights instruments and the important values embodied in them are among the materials that courts may use in appropriate cases to interpret ACT legislation.

As I said, section 142 is a catch-up provision. It is catching up with the common law and reflecting in our Interpretation Act current practice in relation to these issues. It is a valuable thing for us to do. It is appropriate that this Assembly reflect in legislation a recognition that human rights instruments are a valuable extrinsic aid.

I am happy to accept further input from the Bar Association and the Law Society on this issue and expect to have that information by Monday. The proposed adjournment, which I understand has the agreement of all in the Assembly, will allow us to resolve the difficulties that have arisen over the interpretation of proposed section 142. If we delay debate on this bill for a few days, we can discuss with the Law Society and the Bar Association the points the committee neglected to address in relation to the operation of the common law and we can negotiate a position on the bill.

I thank everybody for their contribution to this debate. I am very pleased with the level of cooperation in discussions between my office and all other offices on this complex legislation. The government would have preferred to pass this bill today, but we are more than happy to leave it for a week. The government and I honestly do not see how referring it to a committee would add to the process of consultation and debate. As far as we are concerned, the issue is quite straightforward and should be resolved through consultations and negotiations. I am hopeful that the advice we ultimately receive from the Bar Association and the Law Society will lead to us acknowledging and accepting, that section 142 will not have the effect the committee has intimated and Mr Stefaniak is concerned it may. The government does not accept that interpretation. Section 142 just catches up with the common law and expresses it in our Interpretation Act.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Clause 1.

Debate (on motion by Mr Hargreaves ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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