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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 108 ..

MR STEFANIAK (3.55): Mr Speaker, this is the seventh in a series of JACS bills. The first ones were started by the previous government-I remember introducing a few as the Attorney-General-and we are now up to the seventh one. This process may not be the best way of doing things in terms of substantially amending legislation, although it does help tidy up legislation. This bill provides for a number of not insignificant but, I must say, fairly sensible changes as a result of problems which have been brought to the department's attention by other departments, practitioners or the courts themselves.

Without going through each subheading in the bill, there are a number of amendments which improve the operation of things, such as the changes to the Administration and Probate Act, recognising that Hong Kong is no longer a member of the Commonwealth, an interesting change in relation to registering probate from Scotland, improvements to the Fair Trading Act, and improvements to the Fire Brigade Act. Two excellent officers of the Fire Brigade are present in the gallery for the consideration of that amendment, which will make their job somewhat easier and bring that act into line with some other acts.

There are a number of substantial changes to the Juries Act. I cannot remember when changes were last made to that act. At present, only persons who have attained the age of 60 can claim exemption under the act. Every other category there is automatically exempt. This amendment breaks the categories of persons able to claim exemption into two-a part 2.1 and a new part 2.2. This bill alters the status for ministers of religion, editors of newspapers, household officers and staff of the Governor-General, and education professionals. Persons in those categories are no longer automatically exempt, but they may claim exemption. They form now a section of the new part 2.2.

As I said, the only part there which was in the old act was point No 7, which is about people who are 60 years of age or older. If you are over 60 years of age and you get called up for jury service and want to serve, you can. But if, for example, you feel that you are not quite up to it as you have some physical problems, something which has always been recognised, you can say, "Thanks very much, but I don't want to go there. I claim exemption under part 2.2."

I must say that I am a bit concerned about the fact that an editor of a newspaper, previously automatically exempt, can now sit on a jury. God forbid, we might have Crispin Hull, Jack Waterford and who knows else sitting on our juries! That is a possible consequence of this new clause, but people in those situations can still say, "No, I can't. I claim exemption."Similarly, a minister of religion can now sit on a jury if he or she is called up and so desires, but also can claim exemption. I do not see that as a great problem; it is probably fairly sensible.

I have been lobbied, as indeed have members of the government and crossbenchers, by a group called the Brethren, which was very pleased to see item 2 in part 2.2, which enables a practising member of a religious society or order the beliefs or principles of which are incompatible with jury service to claim exemption. That is enough for them to be exempt. Previously, they would have had to get up in front of a judge and give evidence as to why they should be exempt, but they would not necessarily be exempted, depending on the judge.

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