Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995

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Parliamentary Record 11


Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997




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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Tuesday 23 May 1995 administrative process that we do not believe that a right of appeal always provides a sufficient check, and certainly it does not provide any check on the ultimate appeal body. Given the lack in the Territory of other checks and balances that exist in other parliamentary systems, we believe it is most unwise to tamper with the ability of the Ombudsman. If the Ombudsman moves beyond the line and begins to transgress on to a judicial matter, that will soon be pointed out to that officer by the courts. It is appropriate that that should happen in that circumstance, not that this Assembly should change the act in this way and restrict the Ombudsmans ability in these areas. There is no review of decisions except those that are classified as administrative in line with veiy narrow criteria. In fact, the amendment excludes more than that. With the Planning Authority there is a right of appeal to the Planning Appeals Tribunal. The amendment eliminates any recourse to the Ombudsman in such a case and, in the case of the Liquor Commission, the Ombudsman would not be able to review decisions of the commission. The policy reason given is that it would be inappropriate for the Ombudsman to second-guess the commission because it has considerable expertise. That is not the reason. As I said, if he were to touch on matters of a judicial nature, he would soon be told to pull up, and we should give him all the room he needs to discuss matters that are of an administrative nature. In addition, there is an ability in this legislation to give the Administrator the regulation-making power to declare a person or an agent to be the subject of this legislation, and for the TIO to allow limited review by the Ombudsman. At that stage, it was understood that the TIO was not covered by the Ombudsman, and we wanted to give it some limited ability. However, I understand that the courts have now said that it does cover the TIO. Therefore, the effect of the amendments before us is that the ability of the Ombudsman to be involved with the TIO will be limited by the regulation-making power that will be conferred on the Administrator. We will talk more about that when we come to the amendments, but we believe that is a particularly dangerous area because, if we arrive in a situation where the government of the day is able to instruct the Administrator to make a regulation limiting the power of the Ombudsman in a particular case or in relation to a particular body, that could leave the way open for all kinds of abuse. If the Ombudsman was about to embark on an investigation into an authority of the government or part of an authority of the government and, for whatever reason, the government decided not to allow that to happen, that would be a very dangerous step and would breach the whole function of the Ombudsman. I have advised already that the opposition will be opposing this legislation. We do not believe it is appropriate to tie the Ombudsman in this or any other way. We believe the office is something that all Territorians should support because it is a very important part of the checks and balances that are necessary and it is something that we would be loath to see any restrictions placed on. The same applies to most of the amendments that were circulated to us. We will reject most of them. There is one that I think we will accept - it clarifies the legislation - but we will oppose the rest. Mr BELL (MacDonnell): Mr Deputy Speaker, I find it quite extraordinary that no other government member is to speak on this bill. Apart from the fact that the bill was brought on at 9.40 pm, after a particularly long day, I must say that I am utterly surprised by the direction of this amendment. This is a product of a government that has rejected administrative law reforms that have been taken as read in every other jurisdiction in this 3579