Page 562 - Week 02 - Thursday, 19 February 2015

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Part 6.4 of the Court Procedures Rules 2006 confers on the master the same civil jurisdiction exercisable by a single judge of the Supreme Court. This supports the proposed amendment and also promotes the efficient use of court resources. It is not a necessary or efficient use of court resources to require a single judge to hear an appeal of an interlocutory order made by the master and has the effect of diminishing the master’s authority.

Minor amendments in this bill also change the title of Master of the Supreme Court to associate judge. This issue has arisen from discussions with the Chief Justice and will provide appropriate gender neutrality as well as recognising the expansive civil jurisdiction exercised by this office. The amendment will not have any impact on the current functions, powers or entitlements of the role or any existing administrative arrangements. This amendment will bring the title of associate judge into line with other jurisdictions such as New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Another amendment to the Supreme Court Act will abolish the role of President of the Court of Appeal. The position of President of the Court of Appeal has been vacant since 2011. Advice prepared by the ACT Government Solicitor in June 2012 confirmed that the executive is not obliged to appoint a president and, if no president is appointed, the “orderly and expeditious discharge of the business of the court” remains the responsibility of the Chief Justice under section 7 of the Supreme Court Act.

The position is not necessary and references to the president in the Supreme Court Act are redundant and cause confusion. The Chief Justice supports the abolition of the role of president. No legal or logistical complications would arise if this position were abolished, due to the existing overlap with the functions of the Chief Justice.

Another amendment will address concerns raised by Master Mossop in the 2014 judgement Carew v Heitanen, about the interpretation of section 268 of the Magistrates Court Act 1930. Section 268 relates to the transfer of proceedings to the Magistrates Court from the Supreme Court and was introduced in April 2014 to facilitate the transfer of proceedings because of the increase to the civil jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court to $250,000.

Currently the language in section 268 requires the Supreme Court to transfer proceedings to the Magistrates Court if they “could properly have been begun” there. This requires the court to look back to the time when the proceedings were commenced rather than the situation that exists at the time when transfer is being considered. In the Carew case the law had changed while proceedings were ongoing, raising confusion as to whether proceedings could “properly” have commenced in the Magistrates Court. The proposed amendment will alleviate this confusion and allow the Supreme Court to transfer relevant cases, if appropriate, on the basis of their particular circumstances.

Minor amendments to the Oaths and Affirmations Act 1984 are intended to bring it into line with section 24 of the Evidence Act 2011, which does not require the use of a religious text to take an oath, and also section 24A, which allows a person who does

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