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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 868

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - The immensity of Senator James McClelland's question is such that it would take many weeks to provide that information. The honourable senator win appreciate that the court declared that the reason for the inoperativeness of the particular ordinance which it was considering was that there had not been a proper notification. There were 2 grounds upon which that was stated. To check the position in order to obtain a complete list of ordinances and also of all the regulations one would have to go through the Gazettes and examine minutely each Gazette to see whether it was possessed of the same vice as the Gazette notices which were under consideration by the Supreme Court. The assumption has been made that they are. A number have been looked at in which that conclusion has been verified. But no complete list has been taken out and no attempt has been made to take out a complete list because it has been felt that that would be an enormous, time consuming task. The effective need was to get validating legislation. The efforts of the officers of my Department and of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel have been directed unsparingly to that end in the past 2 days. Therefore I am not able to supply the list which the honourable senator seeks.

I feel that the broad pattern is disclosed by some examples. We know that the Court of Petty Sessions has not been able to sit for the last 2 days. This position has been described by one newspaper as legal chaos. It certainly is unsatisfactory - whether or not chaos is the correct description - to have a court of petty sessions which is unable to continue because of doubt as to whether the magistrate has been properly appointed. There must be some doubt as to whether he has been validly appointed. There must be some doubt as to whether orders made over the last 30 years by magistrates who may not have been validly appointed have any weight. It concerns not only people in gaol, people currently awaiting charges or people who have paid fines but also people who are presumably, receiving maintenance payments pursuant to orders made in the Court of Petty Sessions.

Various civil orders have been made. If a doubt exists - the Supreme Court judgment suggests that there is a doubt - surely the important thing is to put people into the position which they believed they were in. This is an approach which commended itself to the Senate with regard to all the matrimonial causes orders made in South Australia and New South Wales as a result of the decisions of the High Court some time ago. It was accepted that that was a proper thing to do. This is a comparable situation. I am at a loss to understand why the Opposition does not regard this also as a proper thing to do.

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