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Tuesday, 18 April 1961

Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta) (Attorney-General) . - Mr. Chairman, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was kind enough to inform me before the debate began what he proposed with respect to this clause, and I have had some opportunity to think about it. 1 regret to say that I do not feel able to accept it. Let me indicate briefly why. The Supreme Court of the Northern Territory is being constituted by an act of this Parliament. For a number of reasons, that is preferable to setting it up by ordinance. Several legal considerations flow from the fact that the court derives its authority from a statute of the Parliament rather than from an ordinance. But, apart from those quite important legal considerations, the court is a court of the Territory and the substantive law which it will administer will be to a large extent under the control of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory by means of ordinances. Changes in the rules of court to be made by the judge of the court will be matters that very closely concern the people of the Territory, and that is why it is considered much more appropriate that notifications of both the rules and disallowance of rules, if that should take place, should be brought to the attention of the people of the Territory. They, of course, will then have their own means of bringing the Attorney-General of the day to account - no doubt in this House, to which he is responsible.

It seems to me quite inappropriate that disallowance of rules, or the rules themselves, for that matter, should be notified in the Commonwealth " Gazette ". Other provisions of this bill call for notification of various things in the Territory " Gazette " and it seems to me appropriate that matters concerning the rules of court, also, should be notified in the Territory " Gazette ". For much the same reasons, it is much more appropriate that if an explanation is to be made it be made in the Territory rather than in this House. By means of a statute of this Parliament, we are constituting a court in the Territory, and we are truly dealing with a matter that concerns the Territory very closely, as would any rule of court that was made. It has seemed to me, in such time as I have been able to give to the question, that it would be much better to keep this statute in line with that respecting the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, in which there is no provision comparable to that proposed in the amendment, and also that it would be more appropriate not to require the Attorney-General to make a statement in this House which, after all, in one sense, would have at the time only an indirect and perhaps somewhat remote concern with the change in the territorial law.

Mr Whitlam - The bill makes no provision for a statement or an explanation - I think " explanation " was the word used by the Minister - by the Attorney-General in the Territory.

Sir GARFIELD BARWICK - But there will be no difficulty about obtaining the reasons. There is no reason why the procedure should make it incumbent to make a statement. The rule may be only a very minor thing and the reason for its disallowance wholly a Territory matter. I gather that that will be so more often than not. I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Schedule agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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