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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3244 ..

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Disallowed question

MR SPEAKER: Members, earlier today during questions without notice Mr Pratt asked a question concerning the application of the law of the territory to a situation where a mother lost a baby as a result of a hit-and-run accident. I ruled the question out of order as our standing orders prohibit questions that ask ministers for a legal opinion.

I have since considered House of Representatives Practice where, at pages 530 and 531, a background to the relevant practice in the United Kingdom House of Commons and the House of Representatives is given. That authority states that questions asking whether legislation existed on a particular subject have been permitted, although the text goes on to state that the Attorney-General had answered a question on notice which did not explicitly seek a legal opinion stating that he did not consider it appropriate to provide the substance of a legal opinion in response to a question on notice.

I reiterate my ruling, especially given the Attorney-General's statement that he would have to seek a legal opinion to respond to the question. However, I would ask members to be careful in drafting their questions and seek advice if necessary prior to asking them.

Magistrates Court (Refund of Fees) Amendment Bill 2002

Debate resumed from 26 June 2002, on motion by Ms Tucker:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (4.51): Mr Speaker, the government broadly supports the amendment and the bill introduced by Ms Tucker. However, we believe that a further amendment is appropriate if Ms Tucker's proposal is to function as well as it might.

As members will recall, under Ms Tucker's proposal for amendments to the Magistrates Court Act relating to payment of costs in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the full financial impact of the appeal would fall on the public purse, as it would be the courts that would make the payment.

It is the view of the government that that is not the most appropriate scheme. There is a principle of fiscal responsibility: the government believes that the losing party should pay. In the ACT this would not always be the ACT or the territory government. For example, in an action between a person and the Agents Board in which the person is successful, there is no reason why it should not be the Agents Board which pays the cost rather than the public purse.

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