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Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Page: 3384

Senator HUMPHRIES (Australian Capital Territory) (13:39): On behalf of Senator Brandis I rise to speak on the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Amendment and Other Measures Bill 2011. The bill seeks to give effect to the Closer Economic Relations trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand, in particular the agreement on trans-Tasman court proceedings and regulatory enforcement of July 2008. The latter agreement was substantively given effect to by the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010, which was passed with coalition support.

The trans-Tasman proceedings regime implements the agreement between the governments of Australia and New Zealand on trans-Tasman court proceedings and regulatory enforcement. The regime came about following the establishment of the Trans-Tasman Working Group on Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement in 2003. The working group's terms of referĀ­ence were to examine the effectiveness and appropriateness of current arrangements relating to civil penalty proceedings as well as criminal proceedings relating to regulatory matters. Its membership comprised senior officials from relevant government departments in both countries.

In 2007, the Australian and New Zealand governments agreed to implement the recommendations of the working group. The agreement based on those recommendations was signed on 24 July 2008 by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and the New Zealand Associate Justice Minister, Lianne Dalziel. The regime now allows civil proceedings from a court in one country to be served in the other without additional requirements and extends the range of civil court judgments enforceable between the two countries. Enforcement can only be refused if it conflicts with public policy in the country of enforcement. The regime also adopts a common rule to apply when a dispute could be heard by a court in either country and encourages greater use of technology for trans-Tasman court appearances.

This bill makes minor amendments to the principal act to ensure consistency of language and application with the corresponding New Zealand legislation and to adopt the recommendations of the New Zealand parliament's justice committee. Those recommendations were directed towards preventing spurious claims for a stay of proceedings based upon reliance on jurisdictionally-specific statutes. The bill also corrects a technical error in amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 in relation to court fees payable in respect of de facto relationship financial proceedings.

As we witnessed yesterday with the historic address of the Prime Minister of New Zealand to a joint sitting of this parliament, the ties between Australia and New Zealand are exceptionally close—perhaps closer than those between any other two nations in the world. The harmonisation of our legal systems is yet another example of the closeness of that relationship and one that has bipartisan support, as evidenced by the history of the discussions giving rise to the regime. The coalition is pleased, therefore, to support this bill.