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Law and Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 1991



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House: House of Representatives Portfolio: Attorney-General Purpose This is an omnibus Bill that will make a number of largely non-contentious amendments. The major amendments relate to the approval of Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Family Law Court and Federal Court estimates; the maturity date of bills of exchange not payable on demand; ASIO procedures for the handling of warrants relating to postal articles; the abolition of the National Legal Aid Representative Council; and certain Trade Practices Commission charges and fees.

Background As there is no central theme to the Bill, the background to each amendment will be explained below.

Main Provisions Amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979

Basically, the effect of subsections 27(6) and 27A(6) of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979 (the Act) is to require the Minister, when issuing or revoking a warrant authorizing the inspection of postal articles, to inform the Australian Postal Corporation (APC) of the issue or revocation and as soon as practicable forward a copy of the warrant or instrument of revocation to the APC.

New subsections 27(6), 27(6A), 27A(6) and 27(A) will be substituted into the Act by clauses 6 and 7. Basically, the effect of the proposed subsections will be to require the Director-General of ASIO, when issuing or revoking a warrant authorizing the inspection of postal articles, to inform, without delay, the APC of the issue or revocation and forward a copy of the warrant or revocation instrument to the APC. In the Second Reading Speech to this Bill, the reasons given for the proposed amendments included that they will bring the procedures for the handling of warrants relating to postal articles into conformity with the procedures for the handling of warrants relating to telecommunications.

Amendments to the Trade Practices Act 1974

A new section 171A will be inserted into the Trade Practices Act 1974 the effect of which will be to allow the Commission in the course, or for the purpose, of carrying out its functions and powers, to charge persons for the supply of material published by the Commission and attending or taking part in a prescribed activity arranged by or on behalf of the Commission. In the Second Reading Speech to this Bill the reason given for the proposed amendments is to improve the Commission's revenue base and provide a means for the utilisation of the `user pays' principle in relation to the Commission's activities.

Amendments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, Family Law Act 1975 and Federal Court of Australia Act 1976

Section 24U of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, section 38V of the Family Law Act 1975 and section 18V of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 require the President of the AAT, Chief Judge of the Family Court and Chief Judge of the Federal Court to give the Minister estimates of AAT, Family Court or Federal Court receipts and expenditures for each financial year and for any other period requested by the Minister. Monies appropriated for the AAT, Family Court or Federal Court may not be spent except in accordance with estimates approved by the Minister.

Sections 24U, 38V and 18V will be repealed by this Bill. In the Second Reading Speech to this Bill, the reason given for the proposed repeal of sections 24U, 38V and 18V is that they are not necessary because the AAT, Family Court and Federal Court operate under the Department of Finance Ledger System whereby appropriated monies are controlled and released by the Department of Finance in accordance with validated claims submitted by the AAT, Family Court and Federal Court. Such claims have to be in accordance with Finance Regulations and Directions.

Amendments to the Bills of Exchange Act 1909

A `bill of exchange' is defined in section 8 of the Bills of Exchange Act 1909 (the Act) to be an unconditional order in writing requiring the person to whom it is addressed to pay on demand, or at a fixed or determinable time, a sum of money to a specified person or the bearer. Paragraph 19(a) of the Act provides that where a bill of exchange is not payable on demand, the time of payment is three days (the period of grace) from the date set for payment by the bill of exchange.

The effect of the amendment proposed by this Bill to the Act will be to remove the period of grace and provide that where a bill of exchange is not payable on demand, the time of payment will be as set by the bill of exchange. In the Second Reading Speech to this Bill, the reason given for the proposed amendment is that the period of grace is out of step with general international practice and that the proposed amendment will bring Australian law into line with similar provisions under United Kingdom and New Zealand law.

Amendment of the Commonwealth Legal Aid Act 1977

The National Legal Aid Representative Council was established in August 1987. The Council is a 20 member body whose functions include to advise and make recommendations to the Minister concerning: the extent of the need for legal assistance in Australia and the most effective, economical and desirable means of satisfying that need; the level of Commonwealth funds to be provided for legal assistance; the funding of community legal centres; and community legal education. There was no specific budget allocation for the Council in 1989-90. Expenditure for travel costs and allowances, and sitting fees and general administrative costs were met from the allocation of the Office of Legal Aid Administration. Total expenditure for 1989-90 totalled $20 000. Details of the activities of the Council in 1989-90 are contained in its Annual Report.

The principal amendment proposed by this Bill to the Commonwealth Legal Aid Act 1977 is to abolish the Council. In the Second Reading Speech to this Bill, the reasons given for the proposed abolition of the Council included that it has shown itself not to be an effective body and duplicates the effort of the National Legal Aid Advisory Committee.

Bills Digest Service 8 July 1991 Parliamentary Research Service For further information, if required, contact the Law and Government Group on 06 2772430.

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Commonwealth of Australia 1991.

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1991.