JUSTICE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (MISCELLANEOUS) BILL 2012
It gives me enormous pleasure to rise and make my contribution to the Justice Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2012, a bill which, as the house has heard, makes minor amendments to five acts, which I will touch on shortly. Given that the focus of much of the discussion this evening has been on the Accident Compensation Act 1985 and the changes this bill will make to it, it is appropriate that we address those changes first and follow on from some of the issues raised by both the lead speaker, the member for Altona, and the previous speaker, the member for Bayswater.
With respect to the issue of retrospectivity that members of the opposition have raised, in its current form the bill states that where leave to make an application under the relevant provisions of the act has been made but a hearing has not commenced prior to 1 January 2013, the new provisions will apply. Our concerns regarding retrospectivity are that those who have made applications under the current provisions may well be having their cases determined under a different set of provisions; hence the retrospective component.
We may not dispute that the act is clear in its terms, but we are concerned — and we just put this on the record and seek clarification — that there may be many people who have made application under existing provisions, expecting fulsome and detailed reasons to be given, who may find themselves in this situation, because the hearing has not yet commenced. We note these provisions take effect quite quickly, within the next couple of months.
Those people may potentially be at a disadvantage, and the retrospectivity which we know the Parliament is always loath to impose upon applicants and others may be the very outcome of this bill.
I therefore absolutely endorse the comments of the member for Altona. I do not think they were addressed adequately by the previous speaker. Given people are making applications under current provisions and not then having their hearings determined within those provisions, the issue of retrospectivity should be the subject of a full and adequate explanation. I am sure those on my side of the house will be in full agreement with me on that.
An honourable member — Hear, hear!
Ms GARRETT — I note that fulsome endorsement from many members of the chamber!
Given we are discussing the amending of the Accident Compensation Act 1985, I note that we are closely watching this government and what form it will choose to take on the vital issue of compensation and adequate protections for injured workers. We know in the previous manifestation of a coalition government — —
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Weller) — Order! The member may be straying from the bill. I ask her to come back to the bill.
Ms GARRETT — With respect, Acting Speaker, I am talking about the amendments to the Accident Compensation Act. I will say that this amendment has a potential impact on people’s rights by virtue of retrospectivity; we are waiting for some clarification.
We will also be watching closely on other issues to do with injured workers, as I am sure members would expect us to be. I would also note — and I will then return immediately to the bill — our concerns regarding the ripping out of close to $500 million out of WorkCover — —
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Weller) — Order! I ask the member to come back to debating the amendments that are at hand.
Ms GARRETT — Moving on from the Accident Compensation Act 1985 to the other acts upon which this bill touches, including the minor amendments that are made regarding the Judicial Remuneration Tribunal Act 1995, I endorse the comments made by the lead speaker and others that while this may have been an unusual amendment given the context of these issues being tied to the commonwealth judiciary, there is much less on which to report and therefore these amendments are appropriate in that circumstance.
The omnibus bill also makes some amendments to the Supreme Court Act 1986, allowing for the referral of matters to judicial registrars for hearing and determination. On face value this is a reasonably innocuous provision, and as such the opposition does not oppose it. However, we would again note — and this is firmly on the topic of the bill, Acting Speaker — that judicial registrars should not by default be substitutes for judicial officers, particularly on the range of very important and complex matters which the community relies on judicial officers to determine and ensure that the many avenues of natural justice and other important protections are adhered to. We again sound a note of caution that we will be watching to ensure that these amendments do not then lead to cuts in funding for the court system, that they do not become commonplace and that the proper processes of justice are served. Again, I sound a note of caution.
The bill also makes an amendment to the County Court Act 1958 regarding the recognition of judicial pensions. It was a significant anomaly not to include the Chief Magistrate in the list of officers in respect of the calculation of judicial pension entitlements. We pay our respects to Chief Magistrate Ian Gray on his recent appointment to the role of state coroner and congratulate him on that important appointment. This is a very significant role in our community; one which he will carry out with distinction. We do not oppose this amendment. Finally the omnibus bill amends the Terrorism (Community Protection) Act 2003 to extend the time available to undertake a review of the act because of Council of Australian Governments processes. We do not oppose these minor amendments. Clearly these are complex issues of national security and those sorts of reviews should be given the utmost support. We understand their significance.
In conclusion this is an omnibus bill making minor amendments to five pieces of legislation, and while at face value the amendments are minor and are appropriate to be dealt with in an overarching bill — we have no objection to that — there are a range of significant issues raised in some of those pieces of legislation and more broadly in the government’s approach in those areas. We are flagging our concern about some of those issues. We again note that we will be taking a very keen interest on behalf of the Victorian community to ensure that this government upholds its obligations in the area of safety and its commitment to injured workers, and also its responsibilities in the other areas on which this bill touches, including community safety. Having said that, I advise that the opposition does not oppose this bill. I commend it to the house.