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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1025..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

small example. I have two cats at my house, and their major crime from time to time is bringing home the odd bogong moth or a very slow skink. They have been known to bring home a mouse, and that was such a cause for celebration at our place that a public holiday was promptly declared. However, one of these cats, a little orange fellow, was brought to me by my daughter. As a six-week-old kitten, she found him tied to a traffic sign—something like a no-parking sign. He had firecrackers strapped underneath his body and was on fire as a result of kerosene being poured on his back. Flames were coming from his back while some young boys watched.

My daughter got rid of these kids, she took their number plate details, and extinguished the flames. The cat had no whiskers. It had burnt ears and very badly singed fur and was in an incredible state of shock. She rang me up and said, "Do you want a kitten?"Under the circumstances, I said, "Certainly."This cat is now enjoying a very healthy and well-fed life. One of the people was found and dealt with in customary police fashion. There was no need in that little country town to take the matter to court. It was dealt with, and I think most appropriately, by the constabulary of that town. That, Mr Speaker, is aggravated cruelty and that episode gives you an indication of the vehemence which I bring to this particular legislation and the vehemence, as I have expressed in this house before, of my opposition to fireworks. That will be an issue I will take up with my colleagues a little later down the track.

When considering appropriate levels for maximum penalties a number of matters must be taken into consideration. These include the adequacy of a penalty in relation to the worst-case scenario as well as consistency with other penalties on the statute book. The ACT currently imposes the fourth highest monetary maximum penalty within Australia and the third highest jail term for animal welfare offences.

Finally, I want to address scrutiny of bills committee report 24 that was tabled today. The committee noted that although it had no objection in principle to the proposition in clause 4 of the bill that "a court will accord procedural fairness to a defendant on a criminal trial"it did not think it necessary to state this in the bill. The Parliamentary Counsel's Office has advised that this is a standard clause for an alternative provision, such as that in the proposed amendment, that has been used in ACT legislation for some time. The Parliamentary Counsel's Office has identified that this is a criminal law policy and that this alternative provision is based on a commonwealth formulation as used in a number of commonwealth offences. I have replied to the scrutiny of bills committee accordingly.

I have asked my office to liaise with the Attorney-General's office about alternative means of achieving this objective by allowing alternative charges to be drawn or alternative verdicts to be delivered by the court. I make the point that making the statement that X will be the case provided that a court will accord procedural fairness to a defendant begs the question of whether there are occasions on which the court will not accord procedural fairness. I think such an accusation is outrageous. So one would have to ask whether this is a redundant clause. I would suggest that it possibly is. However, for the benefit of members, I am more interested in getting those penalties on the statute book than messing around with amendments at this point. Subject to advice from the Attorney-General and PCO, we may very well consider bringing amendments forward on this legislation to remove that part. I thank the scrutiny of bills committee for their advice on this and their vigilance.

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