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Statutes Amendment (Courts and Justice Measures) Bill

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 17:30 ): I rise to speak to the Statutes Amendment (Courts and Justice Measures) Bill. I indicate that I speak on behalf of my Liberal colleagues and advise the chamber that we are supporting the second reading of the bill. This bill has been introduced by the Attorney-General in the other place and provides for amendments to various acts to achieve efficiencies and consistency with other pieces of legislation. There are also amendments just filed this afternoon which relate to technical repair of the Judicial Conduct Commissioner Act and other legislation.

In the original bill before the chamber, part 2 seeks to amend the Bail Act to permit an expanded class of people to act as witnesses to bail agreements or as a guarantee of bail. This is designed to allow the Registrar or Deputy Registrar to perform these functions. The opposition has been informed that this amendment is supported by the Chief Magistrate. We support this reform and hope it achieves increased efficiency in the administration of our criminal justice system. The bill also seeks to amend the Criminal Law Consolidation Act to expand the range of circumstances in which audio and audiovisual links can be used for court appearances of defendants who are in custody.

The amendment provides for an increased use of these links if the court determines it is suitable, which has the potential to minimise cost of transportation and supervision of defendants who are in custody. The bill, once passed, will also enable audiovisual links to be used in appeal hearings, applications for permission to appeal, or other proceedings incidental to an appeal if the court determines it to be appropriate. The Liberal opposition supports the expanded use of technology, for not only can it help achieve efficiencies, but it can also be used to enhance protection for victims. I note that the Attorney-General has stated in his second reading that this particular amendment is supported by both the Chief Justice and the Chief Magistrate.

Part 5 of the bill relates to amendments to the Evidence Act to extend the application of section 13B which prohibits cross-examination of vulnerable victims by self-represented litigants to apply to other proceedings involving the victim. The bill also extends this prohibition to apply to offences of recklessly or intentionally causing harm as this has been previously omitted. The Liberal opposition supports this reform, recognising that without this amendment, victims can be unfairly subjected to aggressive and inappropriate cross-examination by unrepresented litigants, causing them further stress and humiliation.

There are amendments which have been filed this afternoon. The Liberal opposition indicates that it is has an opportunity to review these amendments and will support the amendments and the proceeding of the bill through committee today subject to the will of the council. The amendments also relate to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner Act 2015 and effectively repair an omission that, when there is a complaint against the Chief Magistrate or Chief Judge of the District Court, it can be referred to the Chief Justice.

I also note in these amendments that the Attorney-General is not proceeding with his original proposed amendments regarding the position of the Solicitor-General, and he will intend to legislate in relation to that, potentially in the new year. Whilst the Liberal Party will support the passage of second reading and the amendments in committee, once again, I find myself on the last day of sitting—with the House of Assembly still in session and able to receive a message from this chamber—having to review a bill immediately outside the chamber, with briefings in the afternoon both to myself and the shadow attorney-general.

I would like to thank the staff of the Attorney-General’s department, but I would send this message to the Attorney, if he reads his Hansard and when I see him next: increasingly, the tolerance of the Liberal Party is waning for last-minute amendments on the last day of sitting. I am particularly mindful of ones relating to the operation of the ICAC and warrants. However, because these amendments are specifically technical and because I have received briefs in the afternoon from the Attorney’s staff, and I am also familiar with the bills being amended, I can indicate to the chamber that we will not be opposing the amendments. I commend the original bill to the chamber.

See full session on Hansard