Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 20 August 2008) . . Page.. 3392 ..
does not receive the notification of a decision within five days, then the 28-day time limit will run from the time they receive notification rather than from when the decision is made. This is clearly a sensible change, and I would have hoped that it would have been addressed in the original bill.
The amendments clarify the position for representation at tribunal hearings in section 30 of the bill. These amendments remove any special qualifications for representation from the bill so that a person can be represented by a lawyer or by anyone else. The tribunal is empowered to make rules regarding who may represent a person at a hearing, but there are no conditions in the bill itself. This does seem reasonable, as the tribunal is certainly in a better position to make these kinds of judgments than we are in this Assembly.
Moreover, I am quite partial to allowing people to make their own decisions as to their representation since they are the ones who bear the consequences of those decisions. The government proposes to amend section 34 of the bill to provide that evidence in a preliminary hearing may not be used in the main hearing or in criminal proceedings other than proceedings for a crime against justice, such as bribery. This section is intended to give effect to the standard rules for pre-trial discussion, which ensure that these are not later used in evidence in the hearing. This does allow parties to be perfectly frank in pre-hearing discussions, without fear of what may be used against them at a later stage. The rationale for this rule is to ensure the maximum possible chance of settlement at this stage rather than a prolonged litigation. For this reason, the amendments appear quite sensible.
There are several other changes in the amendments. The government propose to amend section 39 to allow the tribunal to close the court without the application of either party. They also propose to amend section 50 to expand the conflict of interest provisions applying to tribunal members. My understanding is that the rest of the amendments are for clarity rather than to make substantive changes to the bill. These amendments are, of course, extensive.
Mr Speaker, although I have some reservations about section 34, I am satisfied that this is a rather narrow scenario which is unlikely to cause any serious problem in the short term. The government may want to look at this problem, but I will be supporting the amendments since I think they make sensible changes to this bill.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (6.08): The opposition will also be supporting these particular amendments. Might I say, this bill—indeed, there are a few others, and one that will be debated tomorrow, which I think will have amendments—has been around for some time. I think this one was actually introduced in about May or June. I am not too sure about the one to be debated tomorrow. I would impress upon the government that, even though we are heading towards the end of this Assembly, it would have been very helpful and a lot less problematic if amendments to this bill and others had been made before they were introduced rather than at the last minute. However, we have had briefings in relation to this. I was at the briefing to hear about the first amendment and then came back in time to hear about the last one, so I am relying very much on my senior adviser, Mr White, but I thank the government for the briefings.