House of Representatives

Law and Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 1999

Second Reading Speech

Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General)

I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The Law and Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 1998 amends a number of acts coming within the Attorney-General's portfolio. It also amends one act within the responsibility of the Treasurer and one act within the responsibility of the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. The bill contains amendments of a minor policy nature, makes minor technical amendments to existing legislation and repeals a spent provision.

The amendments are explained in the explanatory memorandum circulated with the bill. The amendments will not have any significant financial impact.

Schedule 1 to the bill will amend part V of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 (the AAT Act). Part V of the AAT Act provides for the establishment and role of the Administrative Review Council (the ARC). The Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee produced a Report on the role and function of the Administrative Review Council in June 1997. The committee made 11 recommendations, of which the government has accepted 10.

The committee's recommendations were designed to strengthen the role and functions of the ARC. A copy of the government's response to the committee's recommendations, indicating the government's implementation strategy, was tabled in the Senate on 1 April 1998. The amendments contained in the bill will complete the government's implementation of the committee's recommendations.

The amendments to the Australian Law Reform Commission (Repeal, Transitional and Miscellaneous) Act 1996 will update certain references in, and provide for the commencement of, schedule 1 to the act.

The bill will amend the Australian Protective Service Act 1987 to allow the Director of the Protective Service to lawfully charge for services rendered to non-Commonwealth persons and bodies. The amendment will require any such charge to be reasonably related to the costs of providing the services in question.

The bill will amend the Bankruptcy Legislation Amendment Act 1996 and the Corporate Law Reform Act 1992 to correct drafting omissions. The amendment to the Copyright Amendment Act 1989 will correct a minor drafting error.

The bill will make a number of amendments to the Evidence Act 1995. Some of the amendments will extend the operation of the Evidence Act to proceedings in all Australian courts in relation to certain forms, applications, claims, returns and other similar documents received by Commonwealth departments and agencies. The amendments will apply the rules in the Evidence Act on the adducing of evidence to how evidence of such documents is given in proceedings in a state or Northern Territory court. Other amendments will give effect to regulations made or amended after the commencement of the Evidence Act giving evidentiary effect to a certificate or other document, accommodate the taking of evidence by affidavit, and make minor drafting corrections to the act.

The bill will make a number of amendments to the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976. One amendment will allow additional judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, as well as resident judges, to be included on the Full Court of the Federal Court.

Another amendment will provide that the Registrar of the Federal Court may authorise officers or employees of the court to administer oaths and affidavits for the purposes of the court. The bill will also insert into the act a standard regulation making power. This amendment will ensure that regulations can be validly made increasing the limit in relation to which the court may enter contracts, to a `prescribed higher amount' where necessary.

The bill will insert a similar regulation making power into the High Court of Australia Act 1979 for the same purpose.

The bill will amend the Judges' Pensions Act 1968 to include service as a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory in the definition of `prior judicial service'. The amendment will put ACT judges in the same position as judges of the Northern Territory and state supreme courts.

The bill will make a number of amendments to the Judiciary Act 1903. One of the amendments will expressly exclude the conferral of criminal jurisdiction on the Federal Court, except where that jurisdiction is conferred upon the Court by some other Commonwealth statute. This will prevent a litigant from seeking to use the provision to bring a private prosecution before the Federal Court or to include a criminal matter as an element of a civil case in which the Federal Court has jurisdiction. Other amendments will repeal a spent provision and provide that the restriction contained in the act, that a superior court is not invested with federal jurisdiction over a summary offence against the Commonwealth, is confined to the exercise of federal criminal jurisdiction by courts of summary jurisdiction.

The bill will amend the Jury Exemption Act 1965 to update certain references in the schedule.

The bill will make amendments to the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment Act 1997 and the Marriage Act 1961 to correct minor drafting errors. The amendment to the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 will correct a minor technical error in the numbering of provisions.

The bill will amend the Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Act 1996 to correct a previous misdescription of amendments intended to have been made by the act, and to correct a technical anomaly. I present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

Debate (on motion by Ms Macklin) adjourned.