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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3158


Senator DURACK(1.25) —On behalf of the Opposition I move:

Page 1, clause 3, lines 9 to 15, leave out the clause, insert the following new clause.

Indictments

``3. Section 69 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (3) `or refer the matter to such legal aid authorities as the Attorney-General considers appropriate' after `the accused person'.''.

I have already referred to this amendment. Its purpose is to insert the words `or refer the matter to such legal aid authorities as the Attorney-General considers appropriate'. I have already explained the reason for that. In fact, Senator Evans seems to have answered the argument, not very well, but he has made some effort to do so. Indeed, I think he thought we were discussing the amendment at an earlier stage. I want to make just one point in addition to the discussion we have already had. I am sorry to refer again to the Maher case but it reveals the need, in some cases, for a residual power of the Attorney-General to give costs where an accused person, facing a serious criminal offence, does not have his own resources and has been refused legal aid for good reasons or otherwise by the Legal Aid Commission. As I said, overwhelmingly, this position will never arise in Australia in this day and age because of the adequacy, by and large, of our legal aid scheme. But the odd case will arise. In the Maher case the facts were enormously complicated. The judge at the trial is the best person to observe whether an accused person in such a case would need some legal assistance. In this case, the legal aid people refused it. If the judge himself thought that a person needed legal assistance, even though the legal aid system had refused it, under the legislation as amended by our proposal, the Attorney-General would still have the responsibility for looking at the question on the certificate of the judge. We are preserving the extreme case but it is one which, in the interests of justice, should be preserved.