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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE E
Program 4-ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE E
Program 4-ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
MR A. ROSE
- Sub program
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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE E
(SENATE-Monday, 23 October 1989)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
- Program 5-AUSTRALIAN SURVEYING AND LAND INFORMATION
- Program 6-AUSTRALIAN PROTECTIVE SERVICE
- Program 7-AUSTRALIAN VALUATION OFFICE
- Program 8-AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING SERVICE
- Program 9-PURCHASING AND SALES
- Program 12-AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT ANALYTICAL LABORATORIES
- Program 14-PARLIAMENTARY AND MINISTERIAL SERVICES
- Program 15-CORPORATE MANAGEMENT
- Program 18-PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY
Program 2-LAW RELATED SERVICES TO THE COMMUNITY
- Subprogram 2.4-Business affairs
- Subprogram 2.1-Administrative law and human rights
- Subprogram 2.2-Law reform
- Subprogram 2.6-Marriage and family services
- Subprogram 2.7-Consumer affairs
- Subprogram 3.1-Provision of legal aid services
- Program 4-ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Program 6-MAINTENANCE OF LAW, ORDER AND SECURITY
- Subprogram 6.1-Australian Federal Police
- Subprogram 6.4-National and Protective Security
- Subprogram 6.8-Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
- Program 2-LAW RELATED SERVICES TO THE COMMUNITY
DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS
- Program 5-OFFICE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE E - 23/10/1989 - ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S DEPARTMENT - Program 4-ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
SENATOR DURACK -I would like to ask a general question on this program before going on to the subprograms. What is the Government's policy now in relation to court fees? I noticed in the Family Court estimates that there was a fairly large increase in revenue from fees. It is not so striking, I think, in the Federal Court area. Could you explain to me what the position is with the imposition of court fees?
MR SKEHILL -We are conducting a review of fees in all portfolio courts and tribunals through a working party comprising representatives of each of those courts and tribunals, our Department and the Department of Finance. It is our feeling that fees have grown up over time, been imposed, been increased or not been increased, without any particular underlying policy. I say that very broadly. Clearly in some areas there has been very specific consideration given to particular fees, but we are looking at fees generally with a view to developing a coherent policy that has regard to an appropriate underlying philosophy and strikes a balance between user pays and access to the justice system. It is a process that has only recently begun and is not yet far advanced. In fact I think the next meeting of that working party is scheduled for Wednesday this week.
SENATOR DURACK -Have there been some increases in fees imposed?
MR SKEHILL -There have been some increases in fees. There were a variety of fees in Federal Court, Family Court, AAT, Supreme Court and the magistrates courts that were increased from 1 July this year, and details were announced. They are reflected in the increased revenues that you see.
SENATOR DURACK -Has there been a public statement on this?
MR SKEHILL -A press release was issued--
SENATOR DURACK -Perhaps you could let me have a copy of that and it would answer the question.
MR SKEHILL -Certainly.
SENATOR DURACK -But that is really only the first instalment so to speak, is it not?
MR SKEHILL -Not necessarily. It depends very much on what this review produces . I expect that it is likely to show that there are areas where fees need adjustment-perhaps up, perhaps down-by reference of one court to the other, and Commonwealth courts vis-a-vis State courts. It is quite a detailed subject . Some courts impose fees that are done by process stage, so that there is a fee for lodging an affidavit and there is a fee for the initiating process. Others, such as the Commonwealth courts, have one up-front fee. From memory, the current situation in the Commonwealth courts and tribunals is that fees recover about 12 per cent of the cost of running the system. We are exploring the observation that in some States the recovery rate is higher, but we are seeking to come to some sort of cohesive policy across the board.
SENATOR DURACK -Will that be the policy; to strike some figure or some percentage for recovery? The Commonwealth Reporting Service, I was told last year at this Committee, had a 50 per cent recovery.
MR SKEHILL -CRS is a separate issue, although related. There is, as yet, no definitive policy because that is the very point of our process as to what the recovery rate should be and the circumstances in which fees should be waived. There is a very complicated relationship between recovery from those who use the system and ensuring there is adequate access for those who need to use the system. We are not yet that far advanced in our review. We have had one meeting. Each court and tribunal has been asked to go away and prepare its own thoughts on where it thinks that fundamental underlying policy should be and how its current fee structure might relate to comparable State bodies. We have yet to bring all that material together.
SENATOR DURACK -My next question has already perhaps been applied to the ACT Supreme Court or the Magistrates' Court here. I am referring to the situation that arose in the ACT Coroner's Court in the Winchester inquest. There was an order for the suppression of the name of a person who was one of the suspects and there was a tremendous amount of publicity around Australia about that. Apparently this order only applied in the ACT, so his name was being freely published in other newspapers around the country. Although I know there are obvious limits as to how far a suppression order can apply in a territorial court, it was such a farce because unless people only read the Canberra Times in Canberra, anybody in Canberra would know who the person was. Has any consideration been given to what is a farcical situation?
SENATOR TATE -Can you explain a little further, for the benefit of the Senator , your understanding of the effective operation of the order?
MR THOMPSON -My understanding was that the order was made under the ACT Coroner's Ordinance and the evidence ordinance applying in the ACT, which could only cover the ACT. The first publication of Eastman's name was by Derryn Hinch on a TV show broadcast into the ACT via Wagga TV, which is picked up in the ACT. At that stage, I do not recall whether the name had been published in any newspaper in Australia prior to the suppression order being lifted. It had just been announced on the one TV show.
SENATOR DURACK -Once it was broadcast on television, it was published in a number of papers.
MR THOMPSON -I know the matter was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate and report back to the Coroner's Court as to whether there was a breach of the suppression order; whether any action should be taken, and what recommendations should be made to legislative amendments.
SENATOR DURACK -But the order can only apply to broadcast and publication in the ACT. What can you do about stopping it from being broadcast on other radio stations or television stations in New South Wales or from being published in all the newspapers coming into the ACT from other States?
MR THOMPSON -It is a problem which has been encountered before. There has been a number of suppression orders made in court proceedings in a Coroner's case in South Australia and publication has occurred in other States. That is a problem we have with our system of State courts.
SENATOR DURACK -Yes, but what is the point of it when it can be so easily circumvented?
MR A. ROSE -That issue has been raised with the State Attorneys-General in the standing committee context, particularly in light of the practice in South Australia. There has not been to date any agreement amongst Attorneys as to the sort of regime of reciprocity, or common adoption of suppression orders, which should apply around the Commonwealth. It is quite clear that each jurisdiction would have to move. To date they have not reached agreement on any common principles on which they would do that.
SENATOR DURACK -Has it been discussed since this particular case?
MR A. ROSE -Not since this. There has not been a SCAG meeting since then, but it certainly was a regular item on its agenda earlier on because of the practice in South Australia being quite out of kilter with the rest of the Commonwealth.
SENATOR DURACK -I know it is only a matter of degree, but you are more likely to be able to protect, for example, proceedings in Perth, where you could pretty well protect a suppression order and perhaps to some lesser extent in South Australia. But in the ACT it would seem to be an impossibility, unless you had a general agreement amongst all the States that they would honour the agreement.
MR A. ROSE -I agree with you. In the normal course, common courtesy would prevent the name being published, but if you have deliberate attempts to undermine that system, for whatever reason an individual has, it makes the process doubly difficult.