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Thursday, 27 September 2001
Page: 31635


Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General) (10:09 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The Jurisdiction of Courts Legislation Amendment Bill 2001 amends the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 and the Judiciary Act 1903 to allow the Australian Capital Territory to establish an ACT Court of Appeal.

The bill also amends the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 to abolish the redundant office of judicial registrar and to make some changes to the practices and procedures of the Federal Court.

Following self-government for the Australian Capital Territory, responsibility for the ACT Supreme Court was transferred to the Territory on 1 July 1992.

However, the Federal Court continued to exercise appellate jurisdiction for the ACT Supreme Court.

It is now appropriate for the ACT to establish its own appeal court with the consequent removal of the appellate jurisdiction from the Federal Court.

The ACT legislative assembly has passed the Supreme Court Amendment Act 2001, which provides for an ACT Court of Appeal to hear appeals from the ACT Supreme Court.

The provisions in this bill complement the ACT legislation.

The ACT legislation provides that the ACT Court of Appeal comprises all the ACT Supreme Court judges, resident, additional and acting.

The legislation also provides for the appointment of a President of the Court of Appeal.

The ACT Government has recently announced the appointment of Justice Crispin as President of the Court of Appeal.

Since the establishment of the Federal Court in 1977 it has been the usual practice for a resident ACT Supreme Court judge to sit on the Full Federal Court in an appeal from the ACT Supreme Court.

Judges of the Federal Court have made a significant contribution to the appellate work from the ACT and that work has been of the highest quality.

It is expected that the current system of Federal Court judges being appointed as additional judges to the ACT Supreme Court will continue.

These judges will also be eligible to sit on the Court of Appeal.

There are transitional provisions in the bill which provide that where the substantive hearing in an appeal from the ACT Supreme Court has already commenced in the Federal Court, it will continue to be heard in the Federal Court.

The bill will make a number of other amendments to the Federal Court Act.

One amendment will provide for the abolition of the office of judicial registrar. There are no longer any judicial registrars appointed to the Federal Court.

With the establishment of the Federal Magistrates Service it is no longer necessary to retain the position of judicial registrar as the Federal Magistrates Service would now handle less complex work that previously was considered suitable for judicial registrars.

Other amendments to the Federal Court Act make some changes to the practices and procedures of the Federal Court.

These amendments are of a minor policy nature.

The bill amends the Federal Court Act to allow the registrar to appoint as a marshal a person who is not engaged under the Public Service Act 1999.

The court has experienced difficulty when a person who is not engaged under the Public Service Act needs to be appointed as a marshal.

This can arise in a remote area where there are no staff of the Federal Court or other appropriate Commonwealth employees.

This amendment would allow a person not engaged under the Public Service Act to be appointed as a marshal.

The bill will also allow the Chief Justice to refer part of a matter to the full court.

This amendment makes it clear that the court has jurisdiction to refer part of a matter, as well as a whole matter, to the full court.

The bill will amend the Federal Court's interlocutory jurisdiction where a matter is referred by a tribunal or authority.

Subsection 20(2) of the act provides for the full court to exercise jurisdiction in a matter from a tribunal or authority constituted by a judge.

The amendments provide that certain interlocutory matters may be heard or determined by a judge or a Full Court.

The act provides that an appeal shall not be brought from an interlocutory judgment unless the court gives leave to appeal.

The bill amends the act to provide that the rules will prescribe the types of interlocutory judgment covered by this provision.

The amendment is designed to remove any uncertainty about what is an interlocutory matter by providing for the rules to specify such matters.

Section 25 of the act provides for the exercise of appellate jurisdiction.

The bill will amend section 25 to allow a single judge in an appeal to order that an appeal be dismissed for want of prosecution or failure to comply with a direction of the court.

In order to facilitate the processing of matters electronically, the bill amends the act to allow a writ, commission or process to be signed by affixing an electronic signature.

Another amendment will allow locally engaged diplomatic staff in Australian embassies to witness affidavits.

This amendment will bring the provisions of the Federal Court Act into line with amendments made to various other acts regarding the witnessing of documents, by allowing locally engaged staff at Australian consular offices to undertake such tasks.

Importantly the amendments will provide clearer provision for the use of video and audio links in Federal Court proceedings.

Section 47 of the act currently provides some guidance for the use of video and audio links.

The court requested that the act be amended to provide detailed provisions for the use of video or audio links or other appropriate means.

The new provisions are based on those in the Federal Magistrates Act 1999.

Although these amendments do not represent major policy changes, they will improve the efficiency of the Federal Court and its delivery of services to the community. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Kerr) adjourned.