Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 April 2008) . . Page.. 796 ..
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (5.52), in reply: I thank members for their support and I will not seek at this point of the debate to revisit all of the issues that the bill seeks to address, except to say that the reforms in relation to removing the blanket prohibition on people who are blind, deaf or dumb being eligible to serve as a juror is a positive step and one that I believe is appropriate. We should not discriminate against people simply on the basis of their physical status or disability but instead judge a person’s ability to be a juror on their merits.
In relation to the issues raised by the scrutiny of bills committee, particularly around the Civil Law (Sale of Residential Property) Act 2003, first of all I thank the committee for their comments and confirm that the amendment made by the JACS bill is not inserting a new offence but is only inserting a defence to an offence which already exists. The human rights issues relating to the offence were comprehensively addressed when the offence was introduced.
In relation to the committee’s comments regarding the amendment to the Juries Act, I would like to clarify that the human rights issues involved and the practical implications of the amendments were given careful consideration. I have already stated before that the amendments will promote the right to equal treatment under the law and will not compromise the right to a fair trial, due to the protections which already exist in the Juries Act.
Finally, in relation to section 64, which deals with the ability to appeal or seek a grant of legal aid from the Attorney-General, there is no sinister motive around this provision. It was simply felt at the time that, given that the provision has not been exercised in any specific way for some time, it was appropriate to remove the provision and simply allow the existing legal aid mechanisms to operate. Given the concerns raised by members in this place, I am quite happy to retain the provision, but I think it is appropriate that that particular criterion I established to allow me to make consistent assessments about whether or not people are entitled to a grant of legal aid is there, and I am seeking to resolve that matter as soon as possible.
I have advised the individual to whom Dr Foskey refers—Mr Polglaz, I understand, is his name—that these matters will not be able to be resolved prior to his hearing tomorrow, and that is a matter of some regret to me. However, I have advised Mr Polglaz that he should simply seek an adjournment of the matter until these matters are resolved, and I would be very surprised if the AAT did not grant such an adjournment. That said, I thank members for their support for the legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Bill, by leave, taken as a whole.