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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 608


Senator RYAN (VictoriaParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training) (13:00): The purpose of the Federal Courts Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 is, firstly, to make minor technical and uncontroversial amendments to improve the operation and clarity of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999. Secondly, the bill will confer jurisdiction on the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to hear certain Commonwealth tenancy disputes because this is the most consistent and cost-effective forum for hearing these disputes.

The amendments to the Federal Court of Australia Act will clarify that appeals cannot be made from minor procedural decisions, such as decisions to change or not to change hearing dates. This will reduce unnecessary delays in the court system and ensure a more efficient administration of justice.

The amendments will also clarify that police officers and court sheriffs can use reasonable force to enter premises to execute an arrest warrant for persons who are the subject of proceedings for contempt of court or for summary offences. This resolves current uncertainty about whether officers can use reasonable force, as there have been occasions when arrest warrants have not been executed because of this uncertainty.

The amendments to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act will confer jurisdiction on the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to hear certain Commonwealth tenancy disputes. These amendments are vital in order to provide a consistent and cost-effective forum to hear these disputes. At present, in most jurisdictions, the applicable law provides for Commonwealth tenancy disputes to be resolved in state or territory tribunals, which can lead to inconsistency of approach. While superior courts may also be able to hear these matters, it is not considered an appropriate use of these courts' resources as it may lengthen the dispute resolution process and increase costs. This means that there is currently no suitable or affordable forum in which to hear these disputes. Conferring jurisdiction on the Federal Circuit Court to hear Commonwealth tenancy disputes will provide a more efficient option for parties involved in these disputes.

Other minor amendments to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act will clarify specific limitations on the award of costs prescribed in other legislation, such as public interest disclosure legislation. This will clarify the limits on the Federal Circuit Court's jurisdiction to award costs, and will assist readers to locate related provisions.

I thank senators for their contributions.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.