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30 Nov 2017

Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General’s Portfolio No. 3) Bill

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN (17:06): I rise to speak to the Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General’s Portfolio No. 3) Bill 2017. The bill amends various extant acts, largely in response to relatively minor issues that have been identified by various agencies and interested parties. I indicate that the Liberal Party will be supporting the second reading of the bill. The changes made by the bill are largely technical in nature. For example, it contains proposed amendments to the Bail Act to enable a manager of a youth training centre to witness bail agreements or a bail guarantee. The government has advised that this change will bring the training centre in line with the current practice in adult prisons.

The bill also contains amendments to the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993, removing the current requirement for the Coroner to hold an inquest for any person who has died of natural causes and who is under an order pursuant to 32(1)(b) of the said act. These orders usually relate to an aged person with a mental incapacity. The amendments proposed by the bill will mean that such a death will instead be reportable to the Coroner, rather than the current legislative requirement to hold a long and often drawn-out inquest, regardless of whether it is necessary in the circumstances.

I note the provisions will still enable the Coroner to conduct an inquest, if necessary or desirable to do so, or as the Attorney-General directs it. This is an inclusion that the Liberal Party is supportive of. Other amendments contained in the bill include changes to the Young Offenders Act. Currently, diversionary measures can be used when a youth commits a minor offence. These measures can require youths to give an apology or pay compensation to a person who has suffered physical or mental injury as a result of an offence.

The bill will expand these diversionary measures to enable them to be used in cases when a person may not have suffered physical or mental injury, but may still have suffered loss or damage as a result of a youth’s offending conduct. A victim who may have suffered property damage is an example that immediately springs to mind. Again, this seems to be a sensible approach, and the Liberal Party welcomes this inclusion in the bill.

The bill also amends the Spent Convictions Act to refine rules relating to the disclosure and use of convictions that become immediately spent. The government has provided advice in between the chambers regarding the need for these particular changes. The advice set out that the current act has produced an anomaly when there is a finding of guilt but no conviction is recorded. In these circumstances, an offence will become immediately spent. Pursuant to the current act, however, in these circumstances employers are barred from taking any internal action from the date of conviction.

This would even apply in cases when the offence was committed in the course of employment or where the employee poses a serious risk to other staff or the public. A further anomaly arises in situations where a person who is found not guilty as an employer is still able to conduct their own investigations and consider whether any disciplinary action is required.

The effect of this is that a person who was found guilty of an offence but had no conviction recorded is better off than someone who is acquitted before a court. The government amendments seek to remedy this particular issue. After consideration in between the houses the Liberal Party has agreed to support the same.

I note further amendments were moved and passed in the other place removing the position of the Deputy Chief Magistrate. The government has since filed further amendments in the Legislative Council to follow on from this. They seek to clarify the Chief Magistrate’s powers of delegation and provide for the appointment of the magistracy in the Chief Magistrate’s absence or on the office becoming vacant.

Other consequential amendments are also required to the commencement clause in order to enable the consequential amendments to the Magistrates Court Act and Remuneration Act to commence at the same time as the changes to the Magistrates Court Act, on 8 July 2018.

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