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Justices of the Peace (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 5 July 2016.)

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 16:50 ): I rise to speak to the Justices of the Peace (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill. I speak on behalf of my Liberal Party colleagues. I advise the chamber that the Liberal Party will be supporting the passage of the bill at the second reading. This bill amends the Justices of the Peace Act 2005. The aim of the bill is to provide a more efficient mechanism for the appointment, suspension or removal of justices of the peace.

There are currently 7,200 justices of the peace in South Australia. They provide a range of services on a voluntary basis. Their role is to act as an independent and objective witness to legal and official documents. Under the current process, all applications must be approved by cabinet. When introducing this bill, the Attorney-General indicated in the other place approximately 300 appointments are made each year. Given the high volume of applications made in a year, all requiring cabinet approval, we are advised that the approval process has become truncated.

In practical terms this bill will enable the Attorney-General to undertake various responsibilities that currently require cabinet approval. Those responsibilities include the appointment of a JP, appointment of a member of parliament to be a JP, appointing a principal member of a council to be a JP and removing or suspending a JP for disciplinary reasons. One of the additional ways in which the bill seeks to improve efficiency is by removing the requirement that all information supplied in support of an application to be a JP be verified by a statutory declaration. In lieu of this, the bill creates a new offence for knowingly and unknowingly making a false or misleading statement when providing information in support of an application.

I note that amendments were moved in the other place by the member for Bragg, the shadow attorney, and were subsequently passed with the support of the government. These amendments will ensure that the appointment and removal of special justices will continue to require cabinet approval. The bill, when it was first introduced in the other place, sought to also delegate this responsibility to the Attorney-General. The role of special justices was considerably expanded following the passing of the Justices of the Peace Act 2005 and the Justices of Peace Regulations 2006.

Special justices are appointed to the Magistrates Court and Youth Court to hear minor matters. They can also be appointed to form a visiting tribunal for judicial review of cases within the prison disciplinary system. Whilst limited to the Road Traffic Act and other matters in the petty sessions division of the Magistrates Court, in some certain circumstances special justices may sit in the criminal division and therefore could hear summary matters under the Motor Vehicles Act or Summary Offences Act.

I acknowledge the government’s support for the opposition amendments which would sensibly recognise that the special justices are entrusted with a significantly higher level of responsibility than that of a justice of the peace. It is appropriate therefore that their appointment or removal should remain subject to a high level of scrutiny. I note that the government has filed amendments in this place in respect of the delegation of power and I indicate to the chamber that the Liberal opposition looks favourably on those amendments which, I understand, is an agreed position between the government and the opposition in relation to specifying the delegation to the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs. I commend the bill to the chamber.

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