Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002
Parliamentary Record 9
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 27 November 2002 M r ELFERINK: Mr Chairman, I am grateful to the minister for his long and careful explanation before going into committee because it did clear up a couple of issues for me, certainly what the governments intent is. It brings me to the issue that concerns me. In the Collman decision, the judges simply turned to the legislation in the first instance for an interpretation as to what the intent of the legislation was, and did not visit at any stage the Hansard debates, the second reading speeches which they may do nowadays, for the purposes of interpretation because they found no ambiguity in the legislation. What concerns me is that, one, if this legislation is going to be read on its face, and judges may choose not to find an ambiguity in what is there, what will be the precise effect of the current wording? Is it shored up sufficiently well? Second, and more importantly, for the purposes of process, if they do find an ambiguity, then they are allowed to turn to the second reading speech by the minister to find the intent of what the government had in mind. The second reading speech is a little less than a page and a half long. I believe if the second reading speech had been far more comprehensive, not only would any perceived ambiguity or otherwise in the way we read it, be less of a problem, I also believe that ambiguity once placed in front of a court may also be easier for the court to divine from the second reading speech what the ministers intent was. I have raised this issue on several occasions with the Attorney-General and I am grateful to the Attorney-General that his second reading speeches are now far more comprehensive and far more explanatory in terms of the information that they give. Indeed, I have found that when dealing with those second reading speeches, that particular briefing is often enough to allay any reservations or fears I might have regarding the governments intent. However, on this occasion, we once again get shorter, condensed versions of second reading speeches, which then successfully lose the intent of the government. Now, the minister, only referring to notes, not even reading it out, was able to explain, comprehensively and clearly, the intent of what the government was trying to do. I would urge the minister, when he is bringing these complex matters to the House on future occasions, to simply make those second reading speeches more comprehensive, not only for our sake, but because the briefing in this Chamber counts above all other briefings. It would also have the effect, further down the track, of avoiding some of the confusion that the judges may have of the legislation that is before us. On reading the amendment, I still see sufficient latitude for confusion so as to allow another reading and this other reading may have detrimental effects on those people who take out these insurance policies. Mr STIRLING: Mr Chairman, I do not know about these second reading speeches, because in opposition I had a lot of difficulty sometimes even following a briefing. On occasions, I can remember being even more confused. In fact, I recall one bizarre, quite obscure maritime amendment that had been put forward by then Chief Minister Stone, I am not sure if he was Chief Minister at the time, and he admitted to me that he did not understand it himself. There was a two paragraph second reading speech that was just bizarre, and of course, so was the principal act and I think it was an aged piece of legislation. Once I had been through the additional material - the Collman court case of January 2002 - and reading the second reading speech in retrospect, I think it reads fine, and you would probably agree if you went back and read it now. Just how much detail goes into a second reading speech? I guess there are the explanatory memoranda and the committee notes that back up the intent of the bill and what the government is trying to achieve with the piece of legislation that it is seeking to pass. I do not have a view. If you try to put everything into the second reading it gets cumbersome and unwieldy and possibly you start to get cross-purposes, or counter-purposes, within that. As I say, I do not have a view. You may be right in this case, that it may have been more helpful if an explanation was offered. Reading it cold myself, I did not have a full understanding of it. Then I received additional material, and read the January 2002 case, and began to see where it impacted and what it meant. In terms of outcomes, I think it reads fine now, but that is with the addition of further information and clarity that I did not have when I first read it. Bill agreed to. Bill to be reported without amendment. Bill reported; report adopted. Mr STIRLING (Treasurer): Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I move that the bill be now read a third time. I thank members who contributed to the debate. It was useful to go into committee; we did get a clarity and greater understanding of those issues. I am comfortable that all members understand why the government needed to act as it did to preserve the integrity of the scheme. We are not legislating away peoples rights. We are putting back in place what is 3085
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