Wednesday 12 November, 2014

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (12:01): I rise to resume my remarks in relation to the Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General's Portfolio) Bill 2014. As I mentioned, things are not always what they seem. We were told that the bill was introduced to remedy minor errors, omissions and other deficiencies; however, when we delve a bit deeper into this statutes amendment bill, we see that things are not always what they seem and that there is more to it. These reforms are, in some cases, much more serious than first presented.

I would like to address each of the bill's parts in turn; some parts I will support, others I simply cannot. In relation to the signing of death certificates, I understand it was the case that when the Burial and Cremation Act 2013 was passed it was discovered that two doctors were required before a cremation permit could be issued, one being the deceased's consulting doctor immediately before death. This amendment restores the position as applied under the previous Cremation Act, in that one doctor's signature is required. I have no problem with that amendment.

In relation to the second amendment, regarding child exploitation material, when you look at the amendment bill it is obvious that it modernises the definition of that and aims not only to broaden it but also to contemporise the description of certain conduct. I think it is important that, as elected members, we update bills to reflect changes in technology, and terminology for that matter, so I have no problem in also supporting that part of the bill.

With regard to the resentencing for subsequent cooperation with law enforcement agencies, under past reforms offenders are able to receive reduced sentences if they cooperate with the police and other agencies, and it could occur after an offender is sentenced and it may be some years later that they provided assistance. It was unclear whether sentencing rules that applied at the date of the offence or at the date of resentencing should apply.

This amendment provides for resentencing according to the law and the principles applicable at the time of the offence. As the member for Bragg alluded to, however, I would also seek details of some of these cases over the past, say, two or three years where we will see the benefit of this. I look forward to receiving some of those cases in due course.

With regard to the notification of suspension of interstate legal practitioners, again it was identified as being unclear whether a court is required to notify the authorities of an individual legal practitioner's suspension, and this amendment secures the same. Again, I have no problem with that part of the amended bill.

However, then we get to a juicier part in regard to the acting chief magistrate, and we have all seen the article in relation to this in The Advertiser on Tuesday 11 November. With all respect, it looks like the Attorney is looking at making his own 'Cannon' law, not the kind of canon law with one 'n' some of us may have abided by in the past, but one with two n's in this instance. I certainly cannot support what the Attorney is aiming to do here.

The government has introduced an amendment to the Magistrates Act that may stop someone acting as chief magistrate. If passed, it would enable the appointment of an acting chief magistrate, if the chief magistrate is absent, or for the most senior magistrate to fill the role until the vacancy is filled.

I understand that, at present, as Deputy Chief Magistrate, Dr Cannon automatically assumes the acting chief magistrate position, and he is obviously acting in that role while the Chief Magistrate is on leave. I understand that Dr Cannon has assumed that role on numerous occasions in the past and, from talking to people in the legal fraternity, I am also informed that he has been quite competent in that role. So, 'Why change the law?' is the question I have for the Attorney. I am very much looking forward—I think that it would be the highlight of my day—to hear his explanation as to why this is taking place.

One thing for sure is that I think that it is a dangerous path for the government to go down when they start interfering with the independence of the judiciary. We should not be interfering with that process. 'Where does the interference stop?' is a valid question. If you speak to lawyers, magistrates or members of the profession, they are also scared and worried about this course of action because where does it stop?

We have an example of a law that seems to be working. The member for Bragg has asked for examples of why this is not working, but we are yet to see why this has been put in place. It also seems to be hypocritical in relation to other laws this government has passed. We have heard from the member for Heysen especially in regard to another role where this is inconsistent. I conclude by saying that we simply cannot support it.

I am not suggesting that there is a vendetta out there but, if there is, we should not be occupying this house's time debating this course of change. It is simply not a good use of the house's time and not a good precedent to set. I simply cannot support that part of the amendment.

In relation to the temporary prohibited weapons class exemptions, again I seek some clarification in regard to the mischief, I suppose, the bill is trying to rectify. I am led to believe, on our queries so far, that we are yet to receive that clarification. I will support parts of the bill, but I cannot support all parts of the bill.