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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2461

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise) - in reply- I thank the Opposition parties for their support of the Bill. I deal firstly with Senator Greenwood's last suggestion about alterations in the style of Bills. I accept his suggestion and will table a report in the Senate, at some convenient time, or make a statement indicating the changes which have taken place in the drafting of Bills and the reasons for these changes. There have been quite a number of changes in the framework of Bills; apart from the style that is used. We think that they have improved the readability of the Bills. The law ought to be simplified. This is part of a lengthy process of introducing some simplicity into the Bills. The honourable senator also referred to the Superior Court. I do not quarrel with his statements about avoiding the difficulties which litigants might encounter in competing jurisdictions and about the necessity for Australia to move towards one system of courts. I think that those statements are correct. I think that our present system is not altogether satisfactory. I would envisage that the Superior Court would probably expand and would become an integral part of one system of courts. I think we should reserve our detailed discussion of this point until later.

I turn now with the reasons for the increase in the number of judges. The proposal was made, I understand, in the time of Senator Greenwood as Attorney-General, that there ought to be an extra judge in the Northern Territory. I have received representations to this effect. I went to the Northern Territory and looked very closely at the operation of the judicial system. I consulted the resident judge and the legal profession in the Territory. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that this Bill is necessary and that the system of having visiting judges is considered to be quite unsatisfactory. I do not need to say more than that. Some of the reasons were mentioned by Senator Maunsell. He referred to the necessity to have resident judges who could move about the Territory. There are other reasons- I think very strong reasons- why the existing system is quite inadequate for the Territory. There is a strong feeling there, which I share, that there should be an increase in the number of resident judges. The Attorney-General's Department had a careful look at the matter. It seems to me that the proposal is quite warranted. There has been an increase in population and in the availability of legal aid not only generally but also through the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. This will mean an enormous increase in litigation in the Northern Territory. The present system is unable to cope. So I ask the Senate to agree to the Bill. In Committee I shall move the amendment which I have had circulated.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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