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




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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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 They can really muck the citizen around something awful. There are times when a matter, whether complex or otherwise, is important but, as a politician, you cannot resolve or even get to the bottom of it because it involves pursuing files, delving back into history and questioning people. The Ombudsman has a very important role. There is no one in the system who can get into the bowels of the bureaucracy and its procedures as he can in order to resolve problems. As politicians, we put our hands up and tell constituents who have insoluble problems in their dealings with the bureaucracy to contact the Ombudsman. We will organise an appointment for them. We are supporters of the Ombudsman. The selfish side of that support is that he relieves us of a considerable amount of work and many problems. In my 21 years in parliament, I have had extensive experience of citizens who have had a bloody raw deal from the public service in some circumstances. Some of our people ought to be brought to heel for the way in which they treat others. I say that, not as a generality, but of specific itemised cases. Mr Bell: That is interesting. We have always assumed that you just get into the bureaucracy and kick heads. Mr PERRON: Not at all. Let me go further. I understand that, before the previous Ombudsman, Ian Knight, took up office, no Northern Territory Ombudsman had believed - and certainly, to my knowledge, none had tested - that the Ombudsman had jurisdiction in relation to the DPP. Mr Bell: They were not the Ombudsman at times when there was a Director o f Public Prosecutions Act. That is why. Mr PERRON: You may be right. The DPP did come along a little later. However, the point is that there is a legal dispute. We need not have introduced this legislation at all. The legal dispute is that, as he commented in his report, the Ombudsman said that in his opinion, - and he had an opinion from senior counsel, which means a QC, in support of his view - he has jurisdiction to examine the decisions of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the operations of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I understand that the Northern Territory Solicitor-General and the DPP disagree. In other words, we have heavy legal advice coming to us, with one saying that he has jurisdiction and the other saying that he does not. We could have sat back and said that all these highly-paid people could work it out among themselves. Instead, when the Ombudsman complained to us in his report, we said that we would move to clarify the situation. We were not proposing to create a shield around the DPP to place him beyond scrutiny. That was not the purpose at all. We wanted to look carefully at and determine what the Ombudsman should be able to examine in relation to the DPPs decision-making processes and what should be out of bounds. The decision that the government made on the basis of advice is what we see before us here today. I would like to make a few points to honourable members. In relation to the DPP, the Liquor Commission and the Planning Authority, we took the view that, where there were avenues of appeal, the Ombudsman should not be second-guessing the statutory roles which 3585