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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Rockhampton, QLD: 7 March 2016: ceremonial sitting of Federal Circuit Court to mark the appointment of Judge Demack to the Rockhampton registry; same-sex marriage plebiscite; ABCC Bill; release of Niki Savva's book



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SENATOR THE HON GEORGE BRANDIS QC

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

L

EADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE SENATE

7 March 2016

TRA

NSCRIPT - Doorstop with Michelle Landry, Rockhampton

T

opics: Ceremonial sitting of Federal Circuit Court to mark the appointment of Judge Demack to the Rockhampton registry, same-sex marriage plebiscite, ABCC Bill, release of N

iki Savva’s book

E&OE………………………………………………………………………………………………….

MICHELLE LANDRY: Today is a very significant day for Central Queensland. It is an extremely important day for our Law Society. It’s the most significant announcement in 43 years to have a Federal Circuit Judge based in Rockhampton. This is something that we were approached by the Law Society last year and we had the Attorney-General come to R

ockhampton, had discussions with them, an announcement was made at the end of last year. Today we’ve had the first sitting of the judge Anne Demack in Rockhampton. This is going to be wonderful for the families of Central Queensland. We have a lot of domestic violence issues here, a lot of family law issues, custody. It’s going to be a wonderful thing to have the judge based in Rockhampton, but also to be travelling the 100 kilometres around this area to actually service the families. If we can have these matters taken into court more quickly this will actually resolve a lot of these family violence issues. I think the judge is going to have a wonderful history in Rockhampton. She’s from Rockhampton, her family was here, her fa

ther was a judge here and I’m really, really pleased that the Attorney-General, and the legal fraternity have made the announcement and now that we have the judge based in Rockhampton.

ATT ORNEY-GENERAL: It is very important when allocating the scarce judicial resources of the Commonwealth that we allocate them fairly across Australia. Naturally, most federal judges are based in capital cities but it’s very important that people in regional Australia and the large regional capitals as well have ready and affordable access to justice. The best way to do that of course is to ensure that a federal judge is based in those large regional capitals. That’s why we are in Rockhampton today for the first sitting of a permanent Rockhampton based judge of the Federal Circuit Court. That judge, Judge Anne Demack, is somebody who comes from one of the great legal families of this part of Australia. Her father, the Honourable Alan Demack, who joined us at the ceremony this morning, was of course the resident Supreme Court Judge here in Rockhampton for some 22 years. The Demacks are a very well-known and very well regarded Central Queensland family.

The main work of the Federal Circuit Court, of whom there are 65 judges who have to be allocated right across Australia, is to deal with family law matters and I’m sorry to say that Central Queensland has one of the worst incidences of domestic violence as we know from the figures that are kept. To be able to respond urgently to family law disputes, including iss

ues such as domestic violence is very important. And the location, on a permanent basis for the first time, of a Federal Circuit Court Judge here in Rockhampton will take a great burden off the people of Central Queensland who, for whatever reason, find they have to have their affairs sorted out by the Federal Circuit Court.

I t’s something the local legal profession has advocated for a very long time and of course it’s something that my colleague Michelle Landry, the Member for Capricornia, has advocated for

a very, very long time so I’m delighted that the Turnbull Government has been able to deliver on this, that as a result of Michelle Landry’s advocacy in which she has been joined by our other colleagues, Senator Matt Canavan, another Rockhampton-based member of the Coalition and now the Minister for Northern Australia, and Senator Ian MacDonald, a member of the legal profession in North Queensland and a long term advocate for northern and regional Queensland. All of them have been tireless advocates, along with the local pr

ofession, for the location of a Federal Circuit Court Judge permanently in Rockhampton. The judge will circuit to Emerald, to Gladstone, to Mackay, on occasion she’ll go back down to Brisbane to relieve the lists there but her base, her centre of gravity as it were, will be here in Rockhampton and that will be very beneficial to the local community.

JOURN ALIST: There’s been some disagreement between yourself and the State Attorney-General about whether there is enough room in this building for the new judge.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well plainly there is room. This is a state building but the Comm onwealth and the States have condominium arrangements in many places in Australia

where they share facilities. It’s a sensible use of the taxpayers’ money. It’s a matter that is being negotiated between the courts and I’m sure that we’ll come to a landing but there is always a vacant court room here. But those administrative arrangements, as I say, will be sorted out because there is nobody who doesn’t want to see the people of Rockhampton benefit from the presence of a permanent Federal Circuit Court judge based here.

JOURNALIST: How important will this appointment be in bringing down that high domesti c violence rate in this region?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well it will address a problem. This is a really, really difficult social problem. The Federal Government has invested a very substantial amount of money

into domestic violence prevention programs but having a judge who is readily available, immediately accessible to deal with urgent matters of course will be very beneficial.

JOURNALIST: Attorney-General will there be, if the Government wins the next e lection, a plebiscite on same-sex marriage by the end of the year?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well the Coalition decided, as long ago as August last year, that the issue of same -sex marriage should be resolved by the people at a plebiscite. That

policy has been confirmed after the election to the leadership of the Government of Mr Turnbull. As I said yesterday, there will be a plebiscite early in the life of the next Parliament. Mr Turnbull said yesterday that it should be as soon as possible after the election. There is no difference between Mr Turnbull and me in relation to the timing. That will be a matter to be

dealt with and decided by the people, as it should be decided by the people, early in the life of the next Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Did you consult with the PM before declaring the poll would be by the e nd of the year yesterday?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I speak to Mr Turnbull all the time.

JOURNALIST: On this issue?

ATT

ORNEY-GENERAL: I speak to Mr Turnbull on a range of issues, including this issue, all the time.

JOURNALIST: Why was the disparity between you declaring it would be the end of the year and him saying it would be in the near future?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’m sorry I don’t think there was any disparity whatsoever. I said we want to have this by the end of the year, Mr Turnbull said he wanted it to be as soon as possible after the election. I don’t think those are inconsistent positions.

JOURNALIST: Is it something that there needs to be a timeline, a time put on when it would be held?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well those announcements will no doubt be made closer to the time a nd the design and architecture of the plebiscite will be decided closer to the time. The

Australian people will know that in the event the Coalition would be returned to Government they will have the final decision on this vexed issue and that that opportunity will be as soon as possible after the next election.

JOURNALIST: Some Coalition members have said that even if a plebiscite votes in fa vour, they won’t necessarily vote in favour on the floor of Parliament.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well that’s fine. I said, in my contribution to the long discussion we had in our Party Room about this last August, that I thought that this should be

a matter of individual conscience. I haven’t changed my mind. If there were members of the Coalition who conscientiously felt they couldn’t vote in favour of same-sex marriage, notwithstanding the eventuality of the yes vote at the plebiscite, I think that is entirely a matter between them and their conscience and they’re perfectly entitled to exercise their conscience.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe that there is time for one by the end of the year because there will be an election in July?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The Prime Minister said yesterday we don’t know when the elec tion is, no decision has been made as to when the election will be but we know the election is not very far away.

JOURNALIST: Just going back to the Federal Court. You’ve been quoted saying that some work needs to be done to accommodate the new judge here. Can you just let us know what sort of work that entails?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No, that’s a matter for the court administrators to work out. They ’ve been very good. The court administrators here in Rockhampton have been very, very

cooperative and helpful in accommodating these arrangements and as the court administrator said to me earlier on today - we are making this work. As of course you would expect people whose

profession is to make sure that justice is delivered to local communities will be cooperative in making these arrangements work.

JOURNALIST: On the reinstallation of the ABCC, sorry, not debating that, is that a deal with the Greens?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I’m not going to talk about what may or may not have passed be tween the Government parties and other individual Senators or parties in the Senate.

The fact is that in the next sitting week, which is the week after this, the Senate will be occupied debating the question of Senate voting reform, that’s what is on the notice paper, that is the expectation, there’s no surprise in that.

JOURNALIST: Was Peta Credlin correct when she said that Tony Abbott couldn’t do the job of Prime Minister without her?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: She didn’t say that and I’m not going to dignify what is really sc urrilous and unattributed gossip with a comment.

JOURNALIST: Do you think she exerted too much influence over him?

ATT

ORNEY-GENERAL: These are matters that are now part of Australia’s political histor y. They’ll be written about by political journalists and historians but what people in the mainstream of Australia are concerned about, in the shopping centres, in the shopping malls, in the workplaces and the schools, they’re concerned about their standard of living. They’re concerned about jobs, they’re concerned about how Australia makes the transition from a minerals boom based economy to an innovative economy, that’s what the focus of the Government is, not talking about gossip about events of recent years.

JOURNALIST: Do you think sitting Members and Senators should be offering themselves up as sources for these books?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I’ve got no comment to make in relation to one particular version of events which have now passed into history.

[Ends]