Page 4505 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 14 October 2009

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There is some merit in the approach that has been taken by the attorney in this case, the forthcoming case of appointments to the Magistrates Court, because that is a much more transparent process than has hitherto been used in the ACT and it is one that has received some support from the Law Society.

I will take the time to read some of the letter that the Law Society wrote to me in relation to the Courts and Tribunal (Appointments) Amendment Bill as I proposed it. After the preliminaries, the letter opens:

Your Bill is a worthy initiative because it advances the causes of transparency and merit in the appointment of judicial officers. The Society has advocated for a long time a method of judicial appointment which is open for all to see and results in the appointment of people of the highest intellect, knowledge, experience and probity.

In recent times the Society has had cause to compliment the Stanhope government for moving in this direction. We acknowledge that appointments to the Supreme and higher courts may in certain circumstances affect for good or ill a government’s legislative priorities. Accordingly we do not cavil with certain discretion being available to the Executive in these matters.

Nevertheless an appointments process of high integrity must also have certain hallmarks which include a general call for expressions of interest, wide consultation, an independent filtering and interview process and a preparedness to discuss a short list with leaders of the legal profession. The current government’s process, and, with respect, your own proposal, lacks but one of those elements: the independent filtering and interviewing of suitable candidates.”

So the Law Society has actually asked for more than I think either the opposition or the government are prepared to give on this matter. The Law Society would like to see a legal gleaning process through experts rather than just through a select committee, say, the justice and community safety committee. The Law Society has complimented the government on its current approach, which is an approach which is pretty much like the presidential appointments to the ACAT, and I suppose if we were dealing with this in a different matter there would some elements of Mr Corbell’s amendments that we could support; that is, those which relate to the notifiable instrument which talks about the process that will be undertaken.

But, quite frankly, that process does not go far enough and the whole tenor of the amendments is to gut the original intent of the opposition’s bill by referring matters to a committee of the Legislative Assembly.

I have to go back and again deal with the confection of the attorney in relation to the justice and community safety committee, or the appropriate committee, suddenly deciding that they are going to have US Senate type confirmation hearings on this matter. There is no power for the committee to do that. There is nothing in this legislation that gives the committee the power to do that. There is nothing in the Legislation Act that would give a committee the power to do so in any other case.

If there was any doubt that that was the case, the tenor of the discussion here today would make it perfectly clear to any committee that it is not the will of the Assembly

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