Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2742

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(10.07) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

This Bill continues the practice of introducing an omnibus Bill into each sitting of the Parliament as an expeditious way of making a large number of non-contentious amendments. Some of the amendments made by this Bill tidy up, correct and up-date existing legislation. Other amendments are of minor policy significance or are matters of routine administration. Many of the proposed amendments will be self-evident or sufficiently explained by the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill. The Second Reading Speech is, therefore, addressing the more noteworthy changes included in this Bill. I propose, with the leave of the Senate, to have incorporated in Hansard the full text of the Second Reading Speech explaining in detail many of the changes to the various Acts which are to be made by this Bill.


Minor amendments to this Act allow the Government Printer to publish a reprinted Act containing all amendments up to a date specified in the reprint. This will avoid delays in reprinting Acts which at present are required to include amendments to the date of publication.


The insertion of a new section 17AA will contribute to administrative efficiency by allowing a Registrar or a Deputy Registrar of the Federal Court of Australia to exercise the powers and perform the functions of a Registrar in Bankruptcy. The new section could apply, for example, during the short term absence of the Registrar in Bankruptcy or where he may have to stand aside in matters that may involve a conflict of interests. The amendment of section 41 removes an anomaly brought to light by the judgment in Re Ikin; Ex parte Ikin v Lamborghini Tractors of Australia Pty. Ltd. (Federal Court, Pincus J., 4 April 1985) where it was held that a valid bankruptcy notice could not be issued where the judgment debt was expressed in a foreign currency. The amendment enables a bankruptcy notice to require payment in a foreign currency or its equivalent in Australian dollars.


The amendment provides for the continuation of a definition of ``British subject'' for the purpose of the franchise qualifications. This amendment is required because, when section 7 of the Australian Citizenship Amendment Act 1984 is proclaimed, it will repeal `British subject' status provisions in that legislation.


The amendments bring into immediate effect various provisions of the Crimes Act 1914 inserted by unproclaimed provisions of the Crimes Amendment Act 1982 and provides that other provisions are operative, except in relation to the Australian Capital Territory, only where an arrangement has been entered into with a `participating' State or Territory as defined. In the Australian Capital Territory these provisions will have full force and effect immediately.


The original amendments introduced in 1982 to enable federal offenders to participate in non-custodial sentencing have not been proclaimed because agreement has not been able to be reached with all States and Territories in relation to their participation in the implementation and administration of non-custodial sentences. The proposed amendments will enable the original provisions to be brought into operation in a State or Territory jurisdiction with effect from that State or Territory entering into the necessary arrangement with the Commonwealth.


The amendments are intended to exempt from criminal sanction under the Crimes (Currency) Act persons who are innocently holding counterfeit coins which, in the case of Australian coins, are of pre-decimal currency and, in the case of non-Australian coins, are no longer legal tender anywhere outside Australia. No mischief is involved in the holding of these counterfeit coins. Concerns that have been expressed about counterfeit items in collections being covered by the Act have delayed its coming into operation. The passage of these amendments will enable the Act to be brought into operation and, at the same time, give to persons innocently holding counterfeit coins within these categories exemption from criminal sanction and security of possession.


Existing provisions enable a witness before a court or board of enquiry to be required to answer a question notwithstanding that the answer may tend to incriminate the witness, provided that such evidence is not admissible against the witness in civil, criminal or service tribunal proceedings except on a charge of giving false testimony before the court or board of inquiry. The amendments extend the application of the protective provisions to a witness who gives evidence voluntarily.


The amendments redefine a crime for which Australia can grant extradition, by providing that such crimes must not only carry a penalty of at least 12 months imprisonment in the country seeking extradition, as is presently provided, but also, had the offence been committed in Australia, a penalty of at least 12 months imprisonment. The amendments also enable postponement of surrender to allow outstanding Australian charges against the fugitive to be dealt with or any sentence of imprisonment to be served. Provision is made permitting the grant of bail where surrender is postponed due to outstanding Australian charges. As habeas corpus is an inappropriate remedy for a person not in custody, a statutory review replaces the existing habeas corpus procedure. In effect, a person serving a sentence of imprisonment in Australia could be surrendered immediately upon completion of that sentence. At present the extradition proceedings could only commence at that time resulting in a further period of incarceration pending hearing and determination of the application.


The amendments to this Act are similar to those made in respect of the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966. In addition provision is made to enable Australia to grant extradition, subject to the provisions of the relevant treaty, for offences which although committed outside the territory of the foreign state are nevertheless justiciable by their courts pursuant to their criminal law.


The amendments make it clear that Registrars and Deputy Registrars may exercise powers of the Family Court as delegates of the Court since the present section 37A may have been open to constitutional challenge on the grounds that it may vest powers of the Court in these officials. Moreover, the Bill validates the exercise of powers of the Family Court of Australia by Registrars since the commencement of section 37A on 2 January 1985 and declares the rights and liabilities of persons to be the same as if those rights and liabilities were attributable to an order of a Judge of the Court.


The amendment enables the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory to hear and determine any application in respect of a matter pending in the General Division of the Federal Court that may be made to a Judge of the Federal Court in Chambers. The effect of the amendment will be to put the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory on a similar footing to State Supreme Courts. The amendment is necessary because there is no resident Federal Court judge in the Northern Territory and a Federal Court judge may not be available to hear urgent interlocutory matters.


Further to the amendments made in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (No. 1) 1985 this amendment increases the period of the operation of regulations relating to unzoned areas from three years to five years since the area became part of the Marine Park in August 1983. This will enable the Authority to grant permission for the operation of an activity in an unzoned area. At present any permission granted would expire in August 1986.


The amendments enable a Member or a Territory Senator to continue to employ staff under the provisions of the Act following the calling of a general election. The problem that arose in the case of the election of 1 December 1984 is remedied in relation to that election. In relation to future elections the amendments provide that Members and Senators shall not cease to hold office while continuing to be entitled to a Parliamentary allowance.


The amendments change the name of the Museum of Australia to the National Museum of Australia, conforming with the naming policy of other national cultural institutions such as the National Library of Australia and will reduce confusion with the Australian Museum in New South Wales. Also, the amendments extend the application of the Act to include the continental shelf as well as present and former Australian external territories; provide a procedure for accession of material to form part of the national historical collection; and enable the Museum to stage travelling exhibitions including materials from outside the national historical collection.

The Government wishes both to ensure the comprehensiveness of the national collection and the respect accorded the heritage and culture of the external territories. Before material of significance transfers to the national historical collection the Museum will contact, as appropriate through the responsible Ministers, the Norfolk Island Government, the Christmas Island Assembly and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Council.


The Patents Act is to be amended so that the declaration of certain matters relating to ``Convention countries'' is made by regulations rather than by Proclamation. The change will allow consolidated lists of Convention countries to be more readily available to practitioners and the public. Further amendments relating to the requirements of patent applications for inventions involving micro-organisms, and to abstracts of patent specifications, will make administrative procedures more straightforward and will correct minor omissions.


A number of amendments formalise the use by Australia Post of vending machines for the issue of postage stamps. The amendments also provide that where a criminal charge is amended, the suspension of the officer based on the original charge need not cease. They also protect the author of a report made in good faith on the work of an officer or employee of the Commission from legal action.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.