House of Representatives

Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013

Second Reading Speech

Ms Roxon (Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments) Bill makes consequential amendments to the Commonwealth statute book to reflect changes to the name of the Federal Magistrates Court and the title of federal magistrate to 'judge'.

It operates together with the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Bill 2012, to more accurately reflect the court's modern role and highlight the valuable service it provides to regional Australians through its program of regular court circuits.

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Bill, which has passed the parliament, amends the Federal Magistrates Act 1999 and other legislation to rename the court and change the title of federal magistrate to 'judge', while ensuring that existing arrangements and entitlements continue.

This bill makes the necessary amendments to update references to the Federal Magistrates Court and federal magistrates across other Commonwealth legislation. The number and breadth of these necessary amendments clearly demonstrates the court's broad jurisdiction and the functions of its judicial officers across areas as diverse as water efficiency, national measurements and telecommunications interception and access-a very broad range of issues.

Some of the legislation undergoing slight amendment enables federal magistrates to undertake functions in their personal capacity, such as issuing search and seizure warrants. The sensitive nature of many of these functions requires that there be no doubt about continuity of arrangements. The bill includes specific provisions to preserve existing arrangements after the name changes commence, and clarifies the operation of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

The bill also includes contingent amendments to update bills currently before the parliament that refer to the Federal Magistrates Court or federal magistrates.

This bill, while containing only consequential amendments, nevertheless forms an important part of this government's wider court reforms, which will ensure that the federal judicial system provides accessible, equitable and understandable justice for the community.

This government has put the federal courts on a much firmer budget footing by recently allocating an additional $38 million to maintain and improve court services.

We have developed and passed a judicial complaints framework to provide a more transparent and understandable way to raise complaints about judicial conduct, while fully respecting the constitutional boundaries between the arms of government.

And new court fee levels will better reflect the capacity of different litigants to pay-such as higher fees for large corporations and government departments, balanced by the reintroduction of fee waivers and exemptions for disadvantaged litigants.

The government has demonstrated good faith with the court and federal magistrates by progressing this name and title change with all possible speed, while ensuring proper consultation with heads of jurisdiction.

These changes to commence the Federal Circuit Court and title of 'judge' will be smoothly implemented across the Commonwealth statute book without any disruption to existing arrangements.

It is envisaged that this bill will commence at the same time as the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Legislation Amendment Bill 2012.

I commend the Federal Magistrates Court and its judicial officers for their hard work over the past 12 years in providing affordable, accessible and streamlined justice for people all over Australia. This new name will open a new chapter for the court and help its judges continue to serve the Australian community. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.