Page 4997 - Week 13 - Thursday, 12 November 2009
would do away with the need to keep accounts solely for licensing purposes, and would not in any way diminish the territory’s consumer protections.
The JACS bill process is also useful for the clarifications that are inevitably required as issues arise under the territory’s laws. Over time, there are disputes as to the meanings of laws, including about the extent of powers granted under those laws. The Court Procedures Act gives the courts the power to require security screenings of everyone who wishes to enter court premises. However, the provisions of the act that give this power could be clarified even further. This clarification is important, as it will ensure that the power of the courts to maintain a safe environment is beyond any dispute. The amendment proposed in this bill would allow for reasonable searches to continue at the courts, and would also ensure that everyone entering court premises is treated equally.
I note that the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety commented on this particular amendment and I would like to take this opportunity to respond. This amendment simply recognises the existing powers of the courts. It is not a change in policy and was crafted to avoid specifically the confusion to which the standing committee has succumbed. The standing committee refers to the Court Security Bill 2000. That legislation did not in any way limit the courts’ power to require security screenings. Rather, it provided a supplementary power to ensure that extraordinary measures could be implemented for particular cases where the courts’ inherent powers were unclear. The Court Security Bill was a supplement to existing and inherent search powers, not a limitation as the standing committee implies.
The right to enter court premises in the first place is subordinate to the inherent right of the courts to regulate their proceedings. This rule is made clear under section 41 of the Court Procedures Act. Courts have an inherent power, recognised in the common law, to control the locations of proceedings so that the safety of everyone involved is ensured. This power includes the right to require that people undergo a screening as a condition of entry to the premises of the court.
The recognition of this power in the Court Procedures Act is a simple re-affirmation of existing law and policy. While the power to require searches does engage section 12 of the Human Rights Act, there is more than sufficient reason to consider these searches a reasonable limitation on the right to privacy. The courts daily hear extremely sensitive criminal and civil matters. The risk of providing an avenue for weapons into the courtroom, for example, clearly justifies the use of general security screenings. The only effect of this amendment will be to ensure that, due to confusion over the language of the statute, a limitation on the courts’ powers will not be invented or claimed where none had existed previously.
In addition to clarifying the law, the regular introduction of JACS bills means that the government is able to respond to changing conditions that require basic legislative reforms. The amendments in this bill maintain one of the territory’s consumer protections as part of a national reform project. The territory agreed to implement a national consumer credit law, as part of a commonwealth initiative. All states and territories are currently participating in the reform, which will result in a consistent and clear set of rules between all jurisdictions.