COURTS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2007
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 19 October 2007.Debate resumed from 19 October 2007.
Mr GREG SMITH
(Epping) [10.40 a.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. A number of Acts are amended by this bill. The amendment to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal Act 1997 will allow a document signed by the parties to be admitted as evidence of an agreement or arrangement reached during a mediation session. It is a sensible amendment. The Civil Procedure Act, which I think we will hear more of as the term of Parliament continues, has created some problems, but the amendments suggested to it and its application to the Land and Environment Court legislation seem appropriate. The amendments to the Confiscation of Proceeds of Crime Act 1989 seem reasonable. There are also amendments to the Coroners Act, the District Court Act, the Land and Environment Court Act, the Local Courts Act and the Supreme Court Act.
I am interested in the amendments to the Coroners Act. Section 54A of that Act currently allows the State Coroner to use any of his or her powers as State Coroner to assist the coroner of another State or Territory to investigate a death, suspected death, fire or explosion. This will be expanded and revised by a new section 54A which will allow, first, the State Coroner to request in writing the assistance of a person holding a corresponding office in another State or Territory, or a coroner in another State or Territory in connection with the exercise of any power under the Act and, second, the State Coroner may assist a person holding a corresponding office in another State or Territory or a coroner in another State or Territory in connection with the exercise of the power under the law of that State or Territory at the written request of that person.
This type of legislation is most important where we have transnational crime and in cases such as the murder of Donald Mackay in the late 1970s or early 1980s. In that case there was evidence of activity in Victoria in relation to his death. The alleged hitman and the man who was ultimately convicted, James Frederick Bazley, was convicted of conspiracy to murder Donald Mackay because the trial was held in Victoria, although it is believed he was murdered at Griffith after being taken from the parking lot of a hotel in Griffith. There was other evidence of activity in New South Wales. Ultimately, this type of legislation was used in the form of an extradition Act in the taking of evidence against Robert Trimboli, who at the time had been apprehended in Ireland. The Victorian Chief Coroner at the time, Mr Dugan, took evidence in Melbourne, Sydney and Griffith, and I was involved in that.
Effectively, there were three briefs—the Commonwealth brief for drug importation and passport offences against Trimboli, the New South Wales brief of Detective Sergeant Parrington and others for the murder of Donald Mackay, and the Victorian police brief of Detective Inspector Carl Mengler for the murder of Douglass and Isabelle Wilson. Those murders were all said to have been done by Bazley, who was a painter and docker and professional hitman, at the behest of Robert Trimboli, who had organised a go-between, Gianfranco Tizzone. These matters achieved great public notoriety in 1984 when the extradition of Trimboli from Ireland was ordered. In the process, we saw the advantage of being able to use one magistrate to go to different States. I would have thought it would be appropriate sometimes for a coroner from one State to go to other States and investigate not only the New South Wales offence but the other offences as well. I do not think this legislation takes it that far but it is a step in the right direction. These jurisdictional problems can obstruct.
Sometimes people go to New Zealand to get away. There are arrangements between Australia and New Zealand for the taking of evidence. There are arrangements throughout much of the world for the taking of evidence in foreign countries for use in Australian cases. Anything that helps get to the truth, helps the coroner and puts the relatives of the deceased out of their misery as much as possible is good. I support the strengthening of those cooperative powers. The Opposition does not oppose the bill.
Mr BARRY COLLIER
(Miranda—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.47 a.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Epping for his contribution to the debate and note that the Opposition does not oppose the bill. The bill contains miscellaneous amendments to court-related legislation and is part of the Attorney General's regular legislative review and monitoring program. The bill includes amendments that will continue the reforms that commenced in August 2005 when the Civil Procedure Act and the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules introduced common civil procedures in the main civil courts in New South Wales. The Land and Environment Court will now be brought into the same civil procedure regime as other courts in New South Wales. The bill also clarifies the Local Court's jurisdiction to make drug proceeds orders and to confirm freezing notices. Freezing notices will be an important interim measure for restraining and managing tainted property pending finalisation of criminal proceedings, at which time confiscation orders may be sought if a defendant has been convicted.
The bill will also allow the coroner to provide assistance to and request assistance from a coroner in another State or Territory in times of emergency or disaster. This initiative is one of the initiatives that has been developed to improve national coordination of coronial functions in an emergency or disaster. The provision is also designed to make clear the coroner's powers in all States and Territories—a uniform provision agreed to by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General—in the event of the need for cross-border investigations as part of an inquest and particularly in the event of mass disasters as we have seen in recent years following terrorist attacks or natural disasters such as tsunamis. I commend the bill to the House.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Passing of the Bill
Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.