Page 1310 - Week 05 - Thursday, 18 June 2020

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participation of overseas ACT electors and supplement the existing option of postal voting.

The bill further introduces an amendment to clarify that the offence under the Electoral Act for making a false or misleading statement in response to an official question may apply in relation to a person responding to a question on an approved form or a question otherwise authorised by the commissioner. For example, this offence provision may apply if electors in the ACT mislead the commissioner in response to questions asked about their eligibility to vote using the overseas electronic voting system.

Amendments for overseas electronic voting and telephone voting also relate to recommendations 14 and 15 of the Legislative Assembly Select Committee on the 2016 ACT Election and the Electoral Act. In its response to the select committee’s report tabled on 10 April 2018, the government provided in-principle agreement to recommendations 14 and 15, noting that those recommendations are matters for the Electoral Commissioner.

In light of our encouraging progress on minimising the transmission of COVID-19 in the ACT, the government is also in a position to relax certain amendments to the Supreme Court Act 1933 that were put in place by the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020. This bill will repeal section 68BA of that act, which authorises a judge to order a trial by judge alone rather than trial by jury for any offence being tried in the Supreme Court, if the criteria for making the order are met. This was introduced to ensure that serious criminal matters were not unnecessarily delayed due to COVID-19 distancing measures. 68BA was always intended as a temporary measure.

The COVID-19 amendments currently provide that section 68BA is in effect until the end of this year, and the repeal of section 68BA before the current expiry date of 31 December 2020, through the passage of the bill, will reflect the change to the distancing requirements and the resulting ability of the courts to accommodate those within a jury trial. I note that a recent practice direction of the Supreme Court stated that the court would recommence jury trials, with special measures to ensure that social distancing requirements can be complied with.

During these uncertain times, supporting Canberra and Canberrans remains the government’s driving priority. The ACT government and the ACT community are remaining vigilant and grounded about the possibility of new outbreaks. This means an ongoing and diligent commitment to understanding the ever-changing risks of COVID-19 and timely responses so that the ACT can remain as safe as possible. This bill reflects our careful and diligent approach and I commend the bill to the Assembly

Debate (on motion by Mrs Dunne) adjourned to the next sitting.

Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2020

Mr Rattenbury, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

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