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Tuesday, 19 October 1999
Page: 11878


Mr McCLELLAND (8:31 PM) —by leave—I move opposition amendments Nos 1, 8 and 10:

(1) Schedule 11, item 25, page 40 (line 24)—41 (line 18), omit proposed section 33C.

(8) Schedule 11 item 63, page 48 (line 9) to 49 (line 20), omit the item.

(10) Schedule 12, item 6, page 59 (line 26) to 60 (line 21), omit proposed section 32AC.

These amendments relate to the earlier debate with respect to the Federal Magistrates Bill 1999 and specifically with respect to the determination of the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court. Amendment 1 will delete clause 25 of schedule 11 of the Federal Magistrates (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1999 , which relates to proposed section 33C. Amendment 8 will delete item 63 of schedule 11 of the consequential amendments bill, which relates to proposed section 69MA. Amendment 10 will delete item 6 of schedule 12 of the consequential amendments bill, which relates to proposed section 32AC.

Clause 25 of schedule 11 and clause 6 of schedule 12, together with section 41 of the Federal Magistrates Bill, provide that certain types of proceedings specified by regulation can be mandatorily transferred from any of the federal courts. Section 63 of schedule 11 allows the minister to proclaim at any time during the next four years that the federal magistrates shall have jurisdiction to make final orders regarding the residence of children, whether or not the parties consent. This will enable a minister rather than the parliament to effectively define the jurisdiction of these federal courts.

It is the Australian Labor Party's view that the jurisdiction of our courts should always be determined by statute and should not merely be at the whim of the government of the day or an individual minister or the Attorney-General. In so doing, we cast no aspersions or criticism on the current incumbent of that office; merely we think that the office itself is not appropriate to solely determine those issues. We note again that the Law Council of Australia supports this view. Accordingly, we oppose these provisions of the bills. Again, if and when the government wishes to extend or limit the jurisdiction of any court, the Australian Labor Party will consider the issue on its merits. However, we will not give the government the power to determine these issues in advance. Although I note again that the regulations and the proclamation would be subject to limited parliamentary control by way of a disallowance motion, it is not the same thing, in our submission, as the parliament determining the jurisdiction through appropriate provisions in legislation.