Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (20 May) . . Page.. 360..
MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):
It is widely recognised that the presence of knives in the community is a rapidly escalating problem. For this Bill to effectively apply the brakes, it is imperative that police are provided with adequate search powers. At first glance the search powers included in this amendment may appear contentious. I stress that these powers are absolutely necessary if this legislation is to achieve the intention of making our city a safer place. When viewed in full context it is evident that, for police to be able to enforce this proposed law, the search safeguards have to be put in place. It is not a precondition under proposed section 349DB for the offender to be arrested prior to being searched.
The requirements to allow police to undertake a search are twofold. Firstly, the police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying a knife; and, secondly, the police officer must produce identification and then inform the person about to be searched of the reason for the search. The concept of reasonable suspicion is clearly defined and refined in the case law. This Bill also provides a mechanism to seize, confiscate and/or return a knife in appropriate circumstances.
The evolution of the knives culture is very real. It worries me that the possession of knives amongst youths is looked upon as a status symbol. I certainly do not think it is "cool" for juveniles to carry knives. It is a huge concern for me that this is the way our society is heading. Dangerous weapons and young heads can often be a potent mix. It is chilling when you think that our kids are allowed to carry knives through unsupervised places like the Belconnen Mall or the Tuggeranong Hyperdome. What is the point? What is the benefit to our community? What if two kids have a difference of opinion at the local skate park and they reach for their knives? What is the realistic outcome? With this Bill we have the opportunity to eliminate the tragic possibilities.
I was talking to a primary school principal recently and I was horrified to learn that she had to confiscate knives from two of her students in the playground. These children were aged no more than 10 or 11. This was not in Sydney. It was not in Melbourne. It was not in the Bronx. This occurred in our own backyard. Unfortunately, these incidents are happening almost daily.
There are about three crimes per week in Canberra involving knives. Researching the police files rammed home to me how too frequent these incidents are. In one instance a few months ago a 25-year-old female was assaulted at knifepoint as she lay sleeping at home in the early hours of the morning. Last week my office was represented at a benefit dinner for the family of the late Peter Forsyth, the Sydney police officer who was the victim of a stabbing. Peter Forsyth left behind his wife, Jackie, and two children, both under the age of three. The community has rallied behind the Forsyths. They cannot bring Peter back, but the message they are sending is clear. We have to learn the lesson from the heartbreak. Police need to be able to prevent these senseless killings.
We have a recent history in the ACT of disturbing knife chapters. There was the stabbing of Eddie Amsteins in 1996 in a Civic fight. The previous year Mr Warren I'Anson was shot after stabbing a police officer twice. Mr Speaker, we do not need any more chapters. As a Canberran and a former police officer, I do not want to have to attend a benefit night for one of our own in the future. Let us take away the knives. Let us take away