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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 September 2011) . . Page.. 4095 ..

There has been considerable discussion about why we do not have penalty units, why we have monetary amounts in these provisions, and again we got the answer, “It is a national scheme and we had to roll over.” I do ask the question: why do we bother to have this legislature if we give up our sovereignty on all sorts of things? In this case, we are giving up our sovereignty on the way we draft our legislation.

The government has said that we need to have a uniform scheme—and I agree that there is a lot to be said in favour of a uniform scheme—but from time to time we may decide that we need to depart in a small way or a large way from that uniform scheme. Western Australia has departed in a small way from the uniform scheme, as too has New South Wales. There is the scope for us to have a uniform scheme so that someone who has experience in New South Wales and who comes across the border knows that if they commit an offence in New South Wales or they commit an offence in the ACT, it will be treated in the same way. That means that they will know that to act in a particular way, irrespective of which side of the border you are on, would be an offence and there would be a penalty attached to it. Whether that penalty is a monetary unit or a penalty unit does not have any impact upon whether or not this is a uniform scheme.

The Canberra Liberals considered whether or not we should convert all these measures back to penalty units but, seeing that there was no heart in this place to have consistency within our own statute book, we decided not to do that. But I put on record that, when we come to government in 2012, we will be reviewing these measures because we think that it is an inappropriate departure from our statute book.

There is another important issue which relates to the three amendments that I have moved here today. These three amendments amend clauses 31, 32 and 33, which are the ones where there are substantial fines and an even more substantial departure from the way we deal with penalties in the ACT. As I alluded to before, in the ACT the penalties are dealt with like this: if an individual commits an offence, they get a fine which is punishable by penalty units. The penalty unit is $110. If a corporation commits the same offence, the penalty unit is five times that amount, $550.

These three provisions, clauses 31, 32 and 33, do two things which are a departure from our penalty regime. Firstly, they institute a notion of an individual business holder being different from an individual so that an employer and an employee under this legislation are treated differently. If he is a business operator and an individual, the penalty rate is twice the penalty for any other individual. This is a departure from our statute book and the way we treat individuals. We do not discriminate against someone on the basis of whether or not they are the runner of a business, except in this piece of legislation.

In addition to this, we have a situation where the penalty for a corporation is not five times the penalty for an individual but 10 times. What we have done here is essentially double the penalties for corporations compared to the normal course of events in the ACT statute book.

The Canberra Liberals believe that these are two unwarranted departures from the way we draft legislation in the ACT. There has been no justification for creating a

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