Page 165 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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think this is something that we in the ACT should take to heart. The article also noted the view of Civil Liberties Australia president Dr Kristine Klugman, when she said:

Increasing numbers of ‘little people’ come to us complaining about how they were mistreated by the government in court cases, tribunals and general dealings where someone’s pension or entitlement depended on interpreting the law.

I am sure that the Attorney-General is saying, “But hang on, Mr Speaker, we already have model litigant guidelines.” And one might ask why we are proposing to take this step, given that circumstance. The ACT is in good company, along with many other jurisdictions in Australia which have model litigant guidelines in place. But the answer as to why we are doing this is simple. The Law Officer Amendment Bill enshrines in legislation, in a very public and transparent way, the already existing policy of the ACT government to comply with the model litigant guidelines. Further, and more importantly, it enshrines in legislation the responsibility of the Attorney-General, both directly and through his department, to ensure compliance with those guidelines.

For further transparency, the bill requires the guidelines to be published in a notifiable instrument, thus further raising its public profile as an important policy position. It prevents any potential for the guidelines to be buried and forgotten at the back of someone’s filing cabinet, only to be dredged out again when the file is sent off to the archives. In other words, the bill acknowledges the importance of the model litigant guidelines and raises them to a new level of public awareness.

The bill creates more certainty for people involved in litigation with the territory. It gives them hope that they will be treated fairly and equitably. It gives them more confidence that they can, in fact, pursue legal matters with some hope that they will be on a level playing field in the courtroom. As Dr Klugman puts it:

It is totally inequitable when a 200kg gorilla like the government acts irresponsibly towards little people in society, who are absolutely powerless by comparison. Bad government behaviour should never be overlooked, even if it is legal.

This bill is the stone in David’s slingshot against the Goliath of government, and I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Corbell) adjourned to the next sitting.

Legislative Assembly (Members’ Staff) Amendment Bill 2008 (No 2)

Mr Smyth, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.01): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

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