Statutes Amendment (SACAT) Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:04): I am pleased today to stand to support the Statutes Amendment (SACAT) Bill 2019. Why we as the Marshall Liberal government are putting this legislation through this place is all about the reason the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) was established in 2015. The ultimate objective of SACAT is to provide a single, low-cost and efficient forum for administrative and civil reviews whilst also giving the courts more time to focus on their core judicial functions. This is more evidence of the Marshall Liberal government streamlining efficiencies and procedures.

When it was established, the SACAT was conferred with jurisdiction to hear the following types of matters: housing disputes, including disputes about residential tenancy; residential parks; rooming houses; and retirement villages. Certainly, in line with the Residential Tenancies Tribunal, I was pleased to assist a former farming neighbour of mine who was involved in a situation. I was very pleased to go through the process with him and give him support during his tribunal matters. Whether it is about residential tenancies or other matters, these are all very important, and when individuals need support I am always more than happy to assist them in the process.

Other matters that came under SACAT were guardianship and administration, consent to medical treatment and advance care directives. When that legislation came through the house, I was heavily involved in the debate with the former health minister, the former member for Kaurna. Something else that came under their jurisdiction was mental health, which comprises another range of serious matters that need to be dealt with appropriately.

It has always been intended to transfer additional jurisdictions to SACAT in manageable stages. It has since taken on a number of jurisdictions related to local government, land and housing, taxation and superannuation, environment and farming, energy and resources, food safety and regulation, and community matters. This bill makes amendments to a range of acts to transfer additional jurisdictions on SACAT in line with the planned process. It also addresses some irregularities in the legislation used by SACAT and makes changes to improve the tribunal's efficiency.

A range of additional jurisdictions will come under this legislation, and the bill transfers the following jurisdictions to SACAT: equal opportunity complaints and exemption applications under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984, the South Australian Health Practitioners Tribunal, the disciplinary functions of the Architectural Practice Board of South Australia, the disciplinary functions of the Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia and certain existing ministerial reviews.

The bill also transfers a range of reviews, disciplinary proceedings and appeals currently heard in the Administrative and Disciplinary Division of the District Court, appeals against certain hospital licensing decisions and a small number of administrative approvals and appeals from the Magistrates Court. Other amendments are coming in to address irregularities.

The bill clarifies the provisions in the SACAT Act concerning access by the public to recordings of proceedings, transcripts or any other documentary material admitted into evidence. This responds to concerns that, given the informality of the tribunal's workings, the current terminology creates uncertainty as to whether a document has in fact been admitted into evidence. To address this, the bill adopts a broader reference to documents, or other material produced or provided to SACAT, to ensure all relevant material can be captured.

An arbitrary restriction on access to photographs or videos held by SACAT will be removed to allow access in appropriate cases, such as residential tenancy matters. The bill also tidies up previously confusing rules for accessing sensitive material so that SACAT's permission will be required to access material of a prescribed class. This will include photographs, video recordings and other material of a sensitive nature, in addition to existing classes of sensitive material already prescribed in the regulations.

There are also amendments in this legislation, as I mentioned before, to achieve more efficiencies. The following amendments are aimed at improving the efficiency of the SACAT. There will be amendments around extending the offence of disrupting proceedings to include hearings by telephone and video link, and also to change the process of appointing SACAT assessors so that the minister—being the Attorney-General, rather than the Governor—will make appointments on recommendation of the SACAT president. This change preserves the status quo for many of the jurisdictions to be transferred to SACAT and will be more efficient.

There has been extensive consultation on this legislation. It has been conducted with all affected ministers, statutory officers, courts, boards and other bodies from whom functions will be transferred to SACAT. Representatives of the occupations and professions whose disciplinary functions will be transferred to SACAT were also consulted.

I applaud this bill being brought to this house by the Attorney-General and hope it has swift passage. I think it is very sensible legislation so that we can streamline matters that, in the past, have gone before various tribunals. A lot of that was tidied up in 2015 and now we are doing more progressive work to make sure that we are getting the SACAT more streamlined and more efficient. With those few words, I commend the bill.