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Wednesday, 1 March 2006
Page: 22


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (11:12 AM) —in reply—At the outset, can I say that the Jurisdiction of the Federal Magistrates Court Legislation Amendment Bill 2005 [2006] will confer new jurisdiction on the Federal Magistrates Court in a number of important areas which the government believes are suitable for that court. A useful outline could be expressed as follows in relation to these areas. The purpose of the bill is to extend the jurisdiction of the Federal Magistrates Court under the Trade Practices Act 1974 and to confer jurisdiction on the Federal Magistrates Court in matters transferred to it by the Federal Court or Family Court, in personam matters under the Admiralty Act 1988 and appeals against departure prohibition orders under the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988.

That outlines the increased jurisdiction. But in a more relevant sense can I say that the Federal Magistrates Court provides a quicker, cheaper and simpler option for litigants and enables both the Federal Court and the Family Court to concentrate on more complex and longer matters. This bill will further alleviate the workload of the Federal Court and provide an alternative accessible option for people and businesses attempting to resolve disputes—and there lies the benefit to the community.

The bill implements recommendations of the review of the Federal Magistrates Service and the Senate Economic References Committee’s report, The effectiveness of the Trade Practices Act 1974 in protecting small business. Senator Ludwig has mentioned the committee which looked at this and the amendment that he proposes. I will reserve my remarks about that for the committee stage, when we deal with that amendment. However, I stress that this bill will help bring about a more accessible and flexible civil justice system. It will improve the efficiency of the Australian civil justice system by ensuring less complex matters are dealt with in the most appropriate forum and at the lowest possible level. It will improve access to the civil justice system by giving litigants, including self-represented litigants and small businesses, the option of bringing actions in a simpler, cheaper and less formal court. This bill brings many benefits to a system which is already in place providing those benefits. I will deal with the issues that Senator Ludwig mentioned during the committee stage. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.