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Thursday, 19 March 2009
Page: 3247


Mr McCLELLAND (Attorney-General) (10:54 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Introduction

The Law and Justice (Cross Border and Other Amendments) Bill 2009 contains a range of measures relating to the Commonwealth’s legal framework for resolving disputes that have a connection to more than one jurisdiction.

Simple and efficient processes for conducting legal proceedings with a cross-border element are essential in our federal sys-tem, where travel between states and transactions across jurisdictions are a routine part of life. In the same way, Australia’s prox-imity to, and our close relationship with, New Zealand makes it important to have special processes in place for resolution of disputes across the Tasman.

The measures contained in this bill are consistent with the government’s continuing commitment to making legal processes more flexible, cheaper and less complicated.

Cross-border amendments

Most significantly, the bill includes amendments to the Service and Execution of Process Act 1992 to support the operation of the Cross Border Justice Scheme. This scheme will be established to streamline the delivery of justice services and to improve public safety in cross-border regions in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Initially the scheme will operate in the NPY lands in Australia’s central desert region. People in the NPY lands live and travel throughout this region according to traditional cultures and customs, across state and territory borders. This creates particular challenges for the delivery of justice services.

The Cross Border Justice Scheme will take an innovative and cooperative approach to addressing these challenges. It will allow police, magistrates and other officials to deal with offenders from any one of the participating jurisdictions where the offender has a connection to the cross-border region.

The scheme will be established under state and territory legislation. However, amendments to the Service and Execution of Process Act are required to enable it to operate as intended. The Service and Execution of Process Act establishes a cooperative scheme for the service and execution of process and the enforcement of judgments between states and territories.

To support this significant initiative, the bill will amend the Service and Execution of Process Act to confirm that the Cross Border Justice Scheme, and similar schemes set up in the future, can operate in parallel with the scheme established under this act. The bill will also amend the Service and Execution of Process Act to provide that in any case of direct inconsistency, the cross-border laws will prevail.

Ability for prisoners to give evidence by audio and audiovisual link

The bill also contains amendments to the Service and Execution of Process Act to allow more flexibility in the way in which evidence can be given in proceedings with an interstate aspect. The bill amends the Service and Execution of Process Act to enable prisoners to give evidence by audio or audiovisual link when subpoenaed to give evidence before an interstate court, tribunal or person.

State and territory legislation already allows a prisoner, for instance, to give evidence in this way where the proceedings are in the jurisdiction of their imprisonment. However, there is currently no explicit provision under the Service and Execution of Process Act for a prisoner to give evidence by audio or audiovisual link in proceedings in another state or territory. This bill addresses that gap.

Expansion of trans-Tasman subpoena scheme to family proceedings

Finally, the bill amends the Evidence and Procedure (New Zealand) Act 1994 to expand the range of proceedings covered by the cooperative scheme established between Australia and New Zealand for the service of subpoenas across the Tasman. Currently the act excludes family proceedings from the operation of that scheme.

These amendments will remove this general exclusion, consistent with Australia’s longstanding view that the scheme should apply broadly to civil proceedings, including proceedings involving family law. This matter was discussed with the New Zealand Minister for Justice, Simon Power, yesterday on his visit to Australia and he welcomed these amendments.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the amendments in this bill introduce or support measures to make the process for resolving disputes with an interstate or trans-Tasman connection simpler, cheaper and more flexible. This is consistent with the government’s broader efforts to improve access to justice for all Australians.

I commend those states who have reached the agreement for these cross-border arrangements in this case and I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Wood) adjourned.