Page 3236 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

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A sensible amendment is being made to the Supreme Court Act to ensure that the Court of Appeal constituted by a single judge can strike out appeals for want of prosecution or a failure to comply with procedural requirements, or strike out appeals that are scandalous, vexatious or unintelligible. You certainly do not want the full court of three judges, which is normal, sitting on fairly minor matters like that. There are also some amendments in relation to judges’ remuneration which, I take it, sort out some problems which probably go back 10 years or to the early 1990s when the courts transferred from the commonwealth. The bill contains a couple of other minor amendments. Again, Mr Speaker, I indicate that the opposition will be supporting this bill.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.19): The Standing Committee on Legal Affairs noted in its scrutiny report of 15 August that the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2005 (No 2) makes minor or technical amendments to a number of laws administered by the ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety. The committee made no further comment. We have not found any significant issues within the bill and thus I will be supporting it today. However, I would like to outline briefly the reasons for my support of some of these amendments.

The amendment to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1989 cleans up some of the interaction between the Land (Planning and Environment) Act and the new Heritage Act passed by the Assembly last year. The previous regime saw all heritage cases torturously dealt with through amendments to the Land (Planning and Environment) Act itself. The new system is intended to work more effectively, with heritage matters dealt with alongside planning issues.

The introduction of the Heritage Act last year was fraught with problems. Despite the extensive lead-up time, a number of issues were still not resolved, including protocols to deal with Aboriginal heritage objects and some of the appeal processes. Due to the minority status of the government at the time, passage of the bill was held up until some of these matters were better addressed. This amendment is a minor continuation of that process.

The bill also amends the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 and the Civil Law Wrongs Regulation 2003. Under the legislation relating to personal injury claims, I support the government’s proposed extension of the time allocated for the first step of pre-court procedures from one to four months, the inclusion of a list of reasonable excuses for not undertaking a legal claim within the time frame, and exemption of pre-court procedures if a claim for compensation has been made under section 116 of the Workers Compensation Act 1951. I support these moves because they encourage greater flexibility within the system and recognise that the legal process is not always a swift one and can be pursued through a variety of mechanisms.

In respect of the Domestic Relationships Act 1994, I agree that it does not seem reasonable to ask solicitors to give detailed financial advice or advice on whether a domestic relationships agreement is prudent or fair. However, it does concern me that such advice is available to people, particularly women, who might be contemplating entering such an agreement. I am not sure that there is a need for a legislative remedy to this. Perhaps the government might consider developing some written guidance that

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