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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2667 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

I have no objection to the minor amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act.

Overall, I am willing to support this bill as it stands. I will take the rest of the debate to consider the amendments tabled by the Attorney-General this morning.

MS TUCKER (12.20): I will speak briefly; I will say a bit more in the detail stage. On the question of the Children's Court Magistrate, we support this legislation. I want to put on the record that we will also be monitoring this. It is really important that we continue to see expertise held within the court system to deal with children's issues.

Whilst I understand that it is important to have some flexibility, if the Children's Court Magistrate is busy and there are urgent cases where children will be at risk if not dealt with, then it is sensible to allow someone else to take on that responsibility.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (12.21), in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate and their broad support for the bill. This has been explained by Mr Stefaniak, with his detailed recitation of the different amendments that are contained within the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill.

At one level, there is apparently a fairly minor range of amendments, but many of them are quite significant. This is an important piece of legislation and I am very pleased that members have taken the time to get across all of the issues that were raised in the different provisions.

I am supportive of the comments made by both Ms Dundas and Ms Tucker about the Children's Court Magistrate provision. The fact that the position of specialist Children's Court Magistrate was created has been an issue within the Assembly for a number of years. At the time that provision was inserted and the position of specialist Children's Court Magistrate was created, the Labor Party-I recall Ms Tucker's participation in the bill-strongly supported the creation of that position. The Labor Party's position in relation to that remains the same. Our commitment to a specialist Children's Court Magistrate is undiminished.

I am sure Mr Stefaniak and other members will recall that this was always an issue for the Magistrates Court. The Chief Magistrate consistently expressed concerns around management of the provision, although there was no objection in principle by the court. There were management issues in relation to the size of the court. It became a critical mass issue, as to the amount of work and the distribution of work between members of a reasonably small bench. We have eight magistrates. To take one of those eight magistrates off the bench to deal specifically with Children's Court matters created, and continues to create, some issues.

That is essentially what these amendments are about. They are about acknowledging the strong desire of this community to see that children are dealt with in a special way and that the magistrate dealing with children in court has a day-to-day commitment to issues affecting children, particularly in relation to the criminal justice system. The community wants to see that they develop some expertise and empathy, and that they devote themselves to those matters. We support that. We supported it at the time of the

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