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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 10179


Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism) (12:19): I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Civil Law and Justice (Omnibus Amendments) Bill 2015 is an omnibus bill which will primarily amend the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, the Bankruptcy Act 1966, the Evidence Act 1995, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act 1999, the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 and the International Arbitration Act 1974.

The bill will make minor and technical amendments to provide more clarity to the legislation, correct legislative oversights and amend obsolete provisions. The bill will also make a number of consequential amendments. The combined effect of these amendments will improve the efficiency and operation of the justice system administered by the Attorney-General's portfolio.

The government aims to make all Commonwealth legislation coherent, readable and accessible to the widest possible audience. To this end, the Evidence Act will be amended to move the journalists' privilege provisions from Division 1A of Part 3.10 to new Division 1C of Part 3.10. This will provide consistency with the numbering of the New South Wales, ACT and Victorian Evidence Acts and is consistent with the Parliamentary Counsel's Committee Protocol on Drafting National Uniform Legislation, which provides that the numbering of uniform legislation should be consistent, something that I think we can all get behind.

To provide clarity to legislation, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act will be amended to ensure that all police officers and court sheriffs who are authorised by the act, or a warrant issued under the act or the rules of court, have the power to use such force as is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances to enter premises to execute an arrest warrant. Currently, there is uncertainty about whether reasonable force can be used to enter premises to execute an arrest warrant. This means that circumstances may arise where an arrest warrant is unable to be executed because an arrestee is inside premises. This can delay the court process and burden the justice system.

Other amendments to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia Act will repeal an obsolete reference to improve the accuracy of the act.

The bill will also streamline and enhance the jury empanelment process under the Federal Court of Australia Act so that a person summoned for jury duty would not be summoned for a particular trial. Instead, they would be summoned to form part of a panel of potential jurors for a three-month period. This will save the court significant time and resources and ultimately lead to the more efficient resolution of disputes.

Other amendments to the Federal Court of Australia Act will ensure fairness in the pre-trial process and will improve the clarity of the act.

The bill will also make minor and technical changes to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act, further supporting amalgamation of four key Commonwealth merits review tribunals. The amendments will ensure all persons who are parties to a review receive notice that an application for review has been made. The bill will clarify that the tribunal may make orders that certain information is not to be disclosed to the parties. It will enable the president to authorise any member of the tribunal to exercise existing powers to dismiss applications and ensure that in matters with more than one non-government party, other than the applicant, they may seek to have the application reinstated. The bill will provide flexibility to the tribunal to set out the manner for lodging or giving documents to the tribunal, or to a person, in a regulation, in a practice direction, or both.

Amendments to the Bankruptcy Act will remove unnecessary requirements to notify the Official Receiver of certain decisions and will streamline some application-for-review processes in bankruptcies. The amendments also insert a 60-day time limit for applications to the court to review certain decisions. This will avoid undue delay in challenging such decisions and is consistent with other provisions of the Bankruptcy Act. Additionally, the amendments will clarify how confidentiality requirements in bankruptcies interact with statutory requirements for disclosure. The amendments will also remove a reference to a repealed provision.

The amendments to the International Arbitration Act will simplify provisions governing the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Australia and improve compliance with the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. It will also apply confidentiality provisions to arbitral proceedings seated in Australia on an opt-out rather than opt-in basis. Finally, the amendments will make minor amendments in the interests of clearer laws.

In conclusion, the intention of this bill is to make minor and technical amendments to a number of acts in order to increase access to justice for all Australians by removing ambiguity in legislation and streamlining legal processes. The bill will increase the currency, clarity and consistency of legislation administered by the Attorney-General's portfolio. Significantly, the amendments contained within the bill will improve the justice system by making it easier for individuals to understand and comply with the law.