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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6959

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (PerthMinister for Defence and Deputy Leader of the House) (18:21): I thank the members for Fadden, Moreton, Ryan, Page and McEwen for their contribution to the debate. The background and context to this much needed Military Justice (Interim Measures) Amendment Bill 2011 is that the High Court, in August 2009, found unanimously that the provisions of the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 establishing the Australian Military Court were invalid because those provisions did not meet the requirements of chapter III of the Constitution. Parliament then enacted the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Act (No. 1) 2009, which reinstated the pre-2007 military justice arrangements. The reinstate­ment of the pre-2007 military justice system was required to allow time for the consideration and development of options for a new military justice system which would meet the requirements of chapter III of the Constitution.

Regrettably we have not been in a position to progress such legislation in a timely enough manner to avoid the following danger—the danger that the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Act (No.1) 2009, which provides for a tenure of up to two years for the Chief Judge Advocate and the judge advocates, is due to expire in September this year. We cannot guarantee that necessary legislation will be enacted before September this year. As a consequence, this bill seeks to continue the appointment, remuneration and entitlement arrangements for the Chief Judge Advocate and the judge advocates for a further two-year period or until such time as the Minister for Defence declares, by legislative instrument, a specified day to be a termination day, whichever first occurs.

The Attorney-General and I and our respective departments, the Department of Defence and the Attorney-General's Department, are currently working to finalise the details of a Military Court of Australia bill and associated consequential and transitional provisions. It is not expected that the bill will be introduced into parliament in the course of this session; rather, it is expected to be introduced in the next session.

As you would appreciate, I have not had the opportunity to listen in full to the contributions of the members who have contributed to this debate. I think that the substance of their contributions has been firstly to impress upon the parliament and the government the importance of introducing general military justice legislation and, secondly, support for this interim measure, which will continue to keep in place the pre-2007 military justice arrangements. I will inspect Hansard in the usual way. If there are any matters which require response from me, I will correspond with the members directly. I thank members and I thank the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.