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Wednesday, 22 August 1979
Page: 461

Mr VINER (Stirling) (Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill and those associated with it represent the last major step in the assumption of responsible self-government by the Northern Territory. Under the Northern Territory (SelfGovernment) Act 1978, the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory exercises legislative power in respect of the peace, order and good government of the Territory. Honourable members will know that the Northern Territory Government now also exercises executive authority, pursuant to the Northern Territory (SelfGovernment) Act 1978, in respect of almost all State-type functions. Accordingly, with the traditional view of the division of governmental powers into legislative, executive and judicial arms in mind, it only remains for the Northern Territory Government to assume responsibility for the judicial arm of government.

Responsibility for the Territory's lower courts was transferred to the Northern Territory Government on 1 January 1978 with most of the Attorney-General's other State-type functions. But at that time it was felt inappropriate to transfer the Supreme Court- the highest judicial organ in the Territory courts structure. In view of the constitutional development of the Territory since then, including the creation of the Northern Territory Government as a separate legal entity from 1 July 1978, the Government has decided that the Supreme Court should be under local legislative and executive control. This decision, I should make it clear, followed representations from and discussions with the Northern Territory Government.

The Northern Territory Supreme Court Act 1961 now provides for the establishment and constitution of the Court. This Bill will repeal that Act which will be replaced by Northern Territory legislation providing for the establishment and constitution of a new Territory Supreme Court. That Court will not be the subject of Commonwealth legislation, except in respect of the conferral of Commonwealth jurisdiction upon the Court and necessary transitional matters.

Clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill are transitional provisions ensuring the continuation of proceedings pending before the High Court or the Federal Court of Australia arising from proceedings in the present Northern Territory Supreme Court, and of the appointments to the Federal Court of the present judges of the Supreme Court. Clause 7 will put beyond doubt that references in existing Commonwealth legislation to the Northern Territory Supreme Court are to be read as references to that Court to be established by the Northern Territory legislation, except where the context otherwise requires.

Discussions between officers of the respective governments concerning the necessary administrative and financial arrangements and for the transfer of staff and property, are now being conducted. This Bill and the replacement Northern Territory legislation will then be proclaimed to come into operation on the same day. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.

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