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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3227

(Question No. 877)

Senator Watson asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 7 May 1984:

(1) Are officers of Federal courts protected from investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman of complaints made against them; if so, what recourse is available to an aggrieved person?

(2) Does the Government intend to rectify this situation; if not, why not?

Senator Button —The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) In accordance with the Ombudsman's function as an independent avenue for the investigation of the administration of Commonwealth agencies, actions of Federal Court officers of an administrative nature are within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction. The Ombudsman is able to receive and investigate complaints against such actions under the terms of the Ombudsman Act 1976.

Under section 5 (2) (b) of the Ombudsman Act 1976 the Ombudsman is not authorised to investigate 'action taken by a Justice or Judge of a court created by the Parliament'. I am advised that this exclusion encompasses the actions of Federal Court officers when those officers are acting in accordance with the direction of a judge.

(2) This distinction between judicial and administrative actions reflects the independence of the judiciary while allowing for Ombudsman review of the Commonwealth administration. The arrangement is considered to operate satisfactorily and therefore I see no need to change it.