Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4405..
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Clauses 1 to 7, by leave, taken together and agreed to.
MS DUNDAS (9.04): I seek leave to move together amendments 1 to 5 circulated in my name.
MS DUNDAS: I move amendments 1 to 5 circulated in my name [see schedule 4 at page 4467].
These amendments, along with my amendment No 7, remove the custodial sentences for strict liability offences in this legislation. We have had this debate numerous times and I had understood that the Assembly had agreed on many previous occasions that custodial sentences were generally not suitable to be associated with strict liability offences. It seems, however, that this message has not quite got through to government. I hope that members will support these amendments, as they have similar provisions in other bills, and we will be able to remove this prison component from the strict liability offences.
The scrutiny of bills committee has noted on a number of occasions that there were substantial rights objections to allowing for imprisonment in an offence without having to prove a fault element. We have had these provisions a number of times before in proposals in front of the Assembly, such as the Dangerous Substances Bill and the Occupational Health and Safety Bill, and in none of these cases were custodial sentences attached to provisions in relation to strict liability. The provisions of this bill are inconsistent with other laws in the territory. The amendments that I have moved this evening will align the provisions with what currently exists in other acts.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (9.05): Mr Speaker, the government will not support these amendments. The penalties proposed in the Auditor-General Amendment Bill are consistent with the penalties that currently exist under the Auditor-General Act 1996; they are essentially the same. Removal of imprisonment as part of the penalty, as the amendments propose, would be seen as a reduction of the existing investigative powers of the Auditor-General and I cannot understand why we would be seeking through these amendments to reduce the investigative powers of the Auditor-General. Under the proposed amendments of Ms Dundas, it seems that the government would achieve just that-a winding back of the Auditor-General's powers.
Retention of the imprisonment penalty with strict liability does reflect the importance of ensuring that the Auditor-General is able to carry out his or her duties effectively. It needs to be said, Mr Speaker, that there are appropriate defences in the legislation for the