May 2, 2012  |  Second Reading Speech

COURTS AND SENTENCING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2012

I rise to speak on the Courts and Sentencing Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. It has been already stated that the opposition is not opposing this bill. I do not know what this government would do without the Department of Justice. The department has enabled filler bills to come into this chamber and fill the big gap that exists because there have been no bills of substance. Although this bill has some substance, it begs a question. This government would have no legislation if the Department of Justice did not continue to work completely independently of government and develop the legislation required to fill the debate time of this chamber.

There are some important measures, and other members have gone into detail about these when speaking on this bill.

Mr Walsh — You have just contradicted yourself.

Ms THOMSON — No, I said — and I will respond to that interjection — — 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The minister will cease interjecting, and the member will not respond to interjections.

Ms THOMSON — There are people of substance at the Department of Justice. The government has failed to bring legislation of substance into this Parliament. Let us get this right — —

Mr Walsh interjected.

Ms THOMSON — You would not be able to introduce it if the Department of Justice did not continue the work it does. The truth is that the government introduces legislation, but the Department of Justice probably works on legislation for a very long time and suggests that the government introduce it. That is the way it works. 

Mr Walsh interjected.

Ms THOMSON — I certainly ensured that

our — —

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The minister and the member on her feet will cease their conversation. I ask the member to resist the temptation to discuss the government business program and instead talk on the bill.

Ms THOMSON — I must admit I was provoked, and normally I do not get provoked. I like to see proactive governments bringing in legislation that they have initiated rather than legislation initiated by the bureaucracy. From time to time that may be necessary, but under this government there has been an overdose of it. 

This bill introduces and establishes the courts executive service, independent of departmental or political control, which will provide executive support to all Victorian courts and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal — a good initiative. The bill introduces a judicial appointment advisory panel based on the federal model to advise the Attorney-General on potential judicial appointments. It will be interesting to see if the government actually uses this body when it is established and whether it will follow the panel’s recommendations.

I heard the member for Altona in her contribution in the chamber earlier today mention the question of the diversity of those appointments made to the judiciary and the importance of diversity. The judiciary needs to reflect the community if it is going to do its job to the best of its ability. Those appointed need to be adequately qualified and suitable for the job — there is no doubt about that whatsoever. 

However, we need to diversify the courts and the way they operate. We need to see diversity in the courts and diversity among the judges who sit on their benches.

I have to say that the previous Attorney-General did an excellent job of ensuring diversity on our benches. I hope this government will follow his lead in ensuring that we appoint people of integrity and diversity to our judicial benches. The previous Attorney-General definitely set the agenda for law reform and change. He was not an Attorney-General who relied on the department to provide the government with its agenda. I commend the work of the previous Attorney-General; I have not had the opportunity to do so in this house before. I commend him on the law reform packages that he brought into this Parliament, which have made this state far more civil in relation to the way it deals with legal issues. This includes the establishment of the Koori Court, and Koori Court issues are covered in legislation we have before us. 

That was an initiative that demonstrated exemplary conduct by the Attorney-General in relation to how one deals with the issues that confront Koori communities.

The bill before the house is perfunctory. It deals with minor changes that need to be made to legislation that has been enacted. The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission bills have not been thorough and neither is this legislation. We will see more pieces of legislation introduced in this place that are not thorough because the government is not concentrating on the detail it needs to in relation to the big-picture issues. There is no doubt that when we get to debating the IBAC bill this week there will be a great deal said about the problems in that bill, the way it has been constructed and the number of amendments in it. It will show with great damning certainty that this government does not know what it is doing when it is dealing with this kind of legislation.

A number of amendments to legislation that has been before this house in recent months are in this bill. Why could we not get it right the first time and avoid bringing this amending bill to this chamber? That is the question that many of us on this side of the house have. I suggest that the government needs to think more carefully about the legislation it brings before this house. The government needs to consult more widely with the people who need to be consulted before it brings legislation into this chamber. It should ensure that it takes a thorough approach and covers all issues so there is not the necessity to propose amendment after amendment to legislation recently introduced to the Parliament.