Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (13 February) . . Page.. 21..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
The bill complements amendments introduced by the Commonwealth to modernise the law relating to slavery. It is interesting to note that there is an offence if a person conducts a business involving the sexual servitude of others. Conducting a business includes providing finance for the business. A question there that the Attorney may wish to address in his remarks on the bill is whether banks and other credit providers can be prosecuted under this provision if the owner of the premises takes an otherwise respectable mortgage to finance the business.
Another issue that the Attorney may be proposing to address in any remarks that he makes on the bill is the one raised by the scrutiny of bills committee. I think that it would be of interest to members of the Assembly if the Attorney were to address the issues there around the decision by the government to introduce into this bill an offence of recklessly causing someone to enter into or remain in sexual servitude. The scrutiny of bills committee has raised a question, quite rightly, about the basis upon which the government made the decision to expand this offence in a way that does make it criminal, even though there may not have been a criminal intent to cause a person to enter into or remain in sexual servitude. It is an interesting point, the sort of point rightly raised by the scrutiny of bills committee, and it may be appropriate for the Attorney to seek to address that.
Included in this bill are minor amendments to the Crimes Act relating to definitions. The principal change is to delete several definitions of "offensive weapon" to ensure that only one definition is used, that is, the definition inserted in the Crimes Act by amendments made in December to address the significant problem of stalking. If I might refer to them as such, the stalking amendments to the Crimes Act which were inserted in December introduced a new definition of "offensive weapon" and it is proposed through the amendments contained in this bill to utilise just that definition of "offensive weapon" in the Crimes Act.
I have some concerns about that. The Labor Party has some concerns about that. I acknowledge that we acceded to the amendment in December in relation to stalking. Basically, it was out of regard for the seriousness with which we hold the offence of stalking and the need for it to be controlled, prescribed or prohibited in the strongest possible terms. But the exclusive definition of "offensive weapon" that the ACT will be left with as a result of the amendments proposed in this bill causes anything a person possesses to be regarded as an offensive weapon. For instance, the Attorney's briefcase, the Attorney's umbrella or anything else one cares to name that may be used offensively becomes automatically an offensive weapon.
It is analogous to the old offence of being in possession of housebreaking implements. It is actually reducing the definition of "offensive weapon" to that old offence which fell into disrepair and some disgrace of being in possession of housebreaking implements when anything that one carried in the boot of one's car fell very neatly within the definition of "housebreaking implement", and the fact that one carried any tools in one's boot led, prima facie, to one being guilty of the offence of being in possession of housebreaking implements. This definition of "offensive weapon" has the same effect. It actually creates a circumstance in which whatever one happens to be carrying or whatever one happens to have in one's possession, whether it be a briefcase, a handbag, a walking stick or an umbrella, becomes under this definition an offensive weapon.