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Thursday, 30 November 2000
Page: 20255


Senator BOLKUS (12:45 PM) —The opposition supports this legislation. The Jurisdiction of Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2000 is required to rectify defects in the establishment of the Federal Magistrates Service. It clarifies the jurisdiction of the Federal Court and the Magistrates Service with respect to applications under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 and the jurisdiction of the Federal Magistrates Service in matrimonial causes under the Family Law Act 1975. More specifically, it states that the Federal Court has jurisdiction to hear applications under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 that are transferred to it by the Federal Magistrates Service, and that the Federal Magistrates Service has jurisdiction to hear such applications that are transferred to it by the Federal Court. It also clarifies that it is in the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Service to hear matrimonial causes transferred to it by the Family Court.

The bill is intended to resolve uncertainty about the effectiveness of the conferral of administrative review jurisdiction and proceedings transferred between the courts. Further, the bill is needed to put beyond doubt the matrimonial causes jurisdiction of the Federal Magistrates Service in transferred proceedings. We understand that the government has received advice from the Solicitor General that there is some uncertainty in respect of the effectiveness of judgments made in cases that the Federal Magistrates Service has already heard in these jurisdictions. Accordingly, the bill validates any judgments made without jurisdiction by the Federal Magistrates Service in such kinds of matters. This approach has been adopted in the past to deal with potentially ineffective judgments, and it is an approach that has been approved by the High Court.

Under the Trade Practices Act 1974, the Federal Magistrates Service can only award damages of up to a monetary limit of $200,000 or such other amount as is prescribed in respect of proceedings instituted in the court. Whilst the initial intention was for this limitation to apply to all trade practices proceedings before the service, some doubt has emerged as to whether the limit applies to proceedings transferred to the service by the Federal Court. Amendment is therefore needed to clarify this.

Essentially, these amendments are technical and clarificatory in nature. While Labor continue to have reservations about the policy underlying the creation of the Federal Magistrates Service—and we have consistently argued that it would have been simpler and more effective to build a magistrate level of justice into the existing structures of the Federal Court and the Family Court—there is no doubt that these amendments are necessary to resolve uncertainties about the nature of the jurisdiction exercised by the Magistrates Service. Accordingly, we support the bill.