Page 3235 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

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MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (12.15): Mr Speaker, the opposition will be supporting this bill. This is the 13th bill in a series of bills dealing with legislation within the justice and community safety portfolio. As usual, the bill before us makes a number of technical amendments, some of which I think are significant but nevertheless minor. For example, under the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act and the Civil Law Wrongs Regulation, the amendment will enable a complainant who might be delayed due to undertaking conciliation of a relevant related health complaint not to be penalised by a court. I think it is eminently sensible that the bill ensure that someone who is seeking conciliation is not penalised. Also, a list of specific “reasonable excuses” is prescribed for not meeting the time frame, and that in itself is sensible.

The bill also addresses concerns by the ACT Law Society about the time frame in which the first step of the pre-court procedures is taken by people in respect of personal injury claims. Currently, this first step must be met a month after the date the claimant instructs a lawyer. That time frame has been extended to four months and I think that is a fairly sensible and more realistic change.

The Corrections Reform Amendment Act cannot be repealed as there is legislation on the table which has not yet been debated. The bill before us simply extends the commencement date to 6 September 2006, which again I think is sensible. The pruning back of the independent legal advice a solicitor gives under the Domestic Relationship Act is also sensible. I think it is pretty dangerous for solicitors to be expected to provide financial advice. They often do not have the expertise to do so.

This bill prunes back the nature of advice to ensure that a solicitor gives advice in areas in which they have expertise. The bill makes a sensible amendment to the Powers of Attorney Act to ensure that enduring powers of attorney made in other Australian jurisdictions are recognised here. Similarly, a minor amendment is made to the Residential Tenancies Act.

The bill also amends the Standard Time and Summer Time Act. Apparently last year all the states and territories agreed to implement the National Time Commission recommendation to replace references to Greenwich mean time, GMT, in legislation with coordinated universal time, which is called UTC. I am told that the two time scales are approximately equivalent and the difference between them is minute, but that the change is important for computer programs that use high speed data transfers and in universal synchronisation applications. Apparently UTC is also the recognised legal standard under the commonwealth’s National Measurement Act of 1960 and is the only time scale supported by a technical infrastructure.

Perhaps the attorney can tell me whether satellites are on UTC or Greenwich mean time and whether there are any problems with that. Being a traditionalist and having grown up and become used to Greenwich mean time, I think that it is a bit sad that we are getting rid of such tried and proven terms, but we are following a consistent pattern with other states and jurisdictions. Although I say with some reluctance that this change is a sign of the times and it is a pity we are not on Greenwich mean time any more, this amendment obviously is to ensure that we comply with everyone else and, indeed, the commonwealth National Measurement Act.

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