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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 848

Mr DUNCAN(6.10) —I rise to support the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Amendment Bill, which was designed to fine tune and streamline the Act which has been in operation since 1 October 1980. The Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) has set out in the second reading speech the purposes of the Bill and the details of its provisions and I do not propose to take the time of the House to cite such matters again. My support for the Bill is with a degree of sadness and reluctance, however. The Attorney-General makes the point that the Bill does not remove any existing rights of review, but seeks to rationalise those instances where there are overlapping remedies. Where review is provided under some other law, it encourages applicants to avail themselves of that alternative review before seeking review under the Act.

Whilst I accept that as a statement of fact, I am concerned that the tightening up and restricting of the exercise of those rights of review which this Bill will achieve will lead to fewer hearings, and that raises the question as to whether, in many cases, justice will be done and be seen to be done as quickly as is the case at the moment. In expressing my reluctance over the passage of this Bill, I do not for a moment indicate that I am reluctant to vote for it. Rather, my reluctance is related to my sadness that this Bill has become necessary as a result of rich people using and abusing the provisions of the Act and turning the courts into mere playthings and tools to be used in their gladiatorial struggles to make even more money.

It is well known that this Bill became necessary as a result of the disgraceful way the Act and the courts were used in the tactical battles over the granting of the third commercial television licence for Perth during which 16 cases were taken to the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act, effectively delaying the decision of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal by about 12 months. It is indeed sad that the activities of the millionaire players in that case have led to a situation where the law must be tightened and, therefore, the rights of ordinary persons seeking a review of an administrative decision may be restricted. The real problem brought to light by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal's hearing into the third commercial television licence for Perth was not a problem with the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act but rather a problem indicating yet again that with enough money and brilliant legal minds, the intention of this Parliament, the law and the courts can be overturned, thwarted or delayed. The additional discretions granted by this legislation will ensure that the Federal Court will now be equipped to confront misuses and abuses of the court's proceedings when these occur.

For my part, I think that the courts generally should be more willing to recognise abuses of the courts' processes by rich people and their lawyers and should not only find against them in particular cases but should also publicly speak out against such abuse. I take this opportunity to call on judges throughout the nation to be more forthcoming in condemning the tangled legal webs that are not infrequently set up as a tactical measure designed to thwart or delay the due processes.

There is one other matter which I would like to deal with in relation to this matter and that is the general question of delay, inefficiency and expense associated with legal proceedings. This Bill is designed to meet those concerns in a limited area but there are genuine public concerns over the wider issues of the cost of the legal system which should be addressed. Judges are highly paid and have expensive back-up staff. Court buildings are often set up in expensive, centrally situated accommodation and are often luxuriously appointed. The use of those facilities from 10.30 a.m. till 4 p.m. with more than an hour's break for lunch and time off for morning and afternoon tea as well, is patently inefficient. In addition, of course, the court rooms are, in many instances, only used for two or three days a week. I believe that a full review of the efficiency of the court system by persons not directly associated with court procedures is long overdue.

Mr Hodgman —You are not recommending night courts, are you?

Mr DUNCAN —Not necessarily, although that is an option that should be looked at in some instances, particularly with the lower courts, which are not generally a province of this Parliament. It should not be too much to ask that judges sit in court for a specified number of hours per week and that the court commence proceedings at 9 o'clock in the morning, as occurs with most of the rest of the business community-

Mr Spender —And finish at what time?

Mr DUNCAN —Often at 5 o'clock. I said that judges should sit for a certain number of hours per week. I am not suggesting that they should sit for a certain number of hours per day. I am suggesting that the resources-the court buildings and so on-should be used more fully than they are at the moment.

Mr Hodgman —Mr Justice Staples has not been used at all.

Mr DUNCAN —That is correct and it is another sad situation. Of course, many judges undertake such practices, as I have suggested, which are designed to ensure efficient operation in their courts. On the other hand, there are examples of judges who make a more limited contribution. An efficiency review by persons outside the court system would, I am sure, lead to recommendations which could vastly improve the archaic operation of our court system. In one area of the law this Bill should ensure that proceedings are more efficient and that delays are kept to a minimum. I can only hope that its provisions will not lead to any denial of justice currently available.