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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 1 July 2010) . . Page.. 3120 ..

Minister yesterday where he was effectively arguing that the human rights concerns of drug users trumped the rights of Canberrans to expect that they can be as safe as possible on our roads. Most people in the community find that quite outrageous.

I make the point that it was a concern around the Human Rights Act that it would be used not for legitimate protection of human rights but to prevent very sensible and sound legislation from coming through. That is exactly what the Chief Minister tried to do yesterday—he tried to use the human rights shield to argue against legislation because he fundamentally disagreed with it. He was philosophically opposed to that legislation, but the response from the community has been a very strong one. We saw the moving statements last night from Alison Ryan last night where she asked about her daughter’s human rights.

It is disappointing, though not unexpected, that the Labor Party in this place will try and use the Human Rights Act to prevent legislation that they simply do not like—reasonable, reasoned legislation which is in place all around the country. We put it to Mr Stanhope in the chamber yesterday that Victoria had this legislation and they have a charter of rights, and he said, “Well, they got it before they had their charter of rights.” On that basis, I guess it is lucky that they did, but I suspect that they would have pushed it through anyway, because it is sensible legislation.

If we had had this Chief Minister around and if the Human Rights Act had been around when random breath testing was first implemented, I suspect we would have heard exactly the same kind of opposition being put—that is, it breaches human rights. The US has a bill of rights enshrined in their constitution, and we know there are concerns in a number of cases as to how random breath testing can be conducted. It is far more restrictive in that jurisdiction.

In the end, random roadside drug testing saves lives. That is what it is about. We should not just pretend that it was the Chief Minister putting up those arguments. ACT Labor’s position is that they do not support random roadside drug testing. They did not support our legislation, and they did not support it in the end because they claimed it was not human rights compliant. Of course, concerns could be raised about any similar schemes with regard to human rights. We will stand up for the human rights of Canberrans who want to go about their daily lives and be protected to the maximum extent possible under the law. That is in stark contrast to ACT Labor arguing against such a sensible piece of legislation.

I want to touch on the virtual district court which is part of this budget. The virtual district court has no support from the legal profession. The ACT Law Society and the ACT Bar Association have separately and jointly criticised the proposal. The Chief Justice, of course, has declined to comment on it publicly. Two barristers have written letters to the editor, and it is worth reading some extracts, because Ken Archer is a respected barrister and former prosecutor in the territory:

Yet again, criminal justice policy is being driven by personality politics … The result is a JACS-inspired solution that answers the problem by creating further complexity in a criminal justice system that is already too bureaucratic … My irritation with this proposal is shared by just about all the legal profession … It completes the emasculation of the Magistrates Court, the jurisdiction of which has been decimated by the ACAT disaster … I cringe when thinking of the jurisprudence that might come out of the District Court.

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