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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 February 2018) . . Page.. 438 ..

MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (5.08): Yes, it is the case that the Attorney-General has engaged with the local legal profession on these amendments. Let me quote a report on what they had to say about these amendments:

It’s a shocker. They’ve left the drafting as it was before, which captured innocent behaviour, but added this preamble ‘without reasonable excuse’, Mr Archer said.

Mr Archer is the president of the Bar Association. The report continued:

Legally it’s now up to the accused person to bring forward evidence to prove they’re not guilty of the offence. They are of the view it makes it better [but] it captures behaviour regardless of consent.

Yes, the Attorney-General is quite correct that he has had engagement with the Law Society and the Bar Association, but that does not suggest in any way that they are satisfied with these, and I am sure he would acknowledge that.

This amendment seeks to address a problem clause. I spoke about that at the in-principle stage. I support the intent of the clause; I think every reasonable minded person would support the intent. We want to tackle and address the issue of grooming. It is a very important one, one that arises out of the royal commission. But, as I said earlier, the royal commission said that this is about conduct and an offence undertaken with the intention of grooming the child to be involved in a sexual offence. That is from the royal commission. The problem is that—and this is a technical drafting issue—the government’s clause does not make that explicit. The amendment relating to a reasonable excuse which has been tabled by the Attorney-General is an attempt by the government to address that issue. But the view of the bar—and I presume the Law Society; I do not speak for them, but I know that they have concerns in this area—and certainly the opposition is that it again remains too ambiguous.

The concerns that we have are about what the legislation actually says, rather than the intent of that legislation. It is an attempt to fix it. I think it goes part way—perhaps not so much in the bill but in the explanatory statement. The explanatory statement, as I said in my in-principle stage speech, is quite extensive. It seeks to clarify this mess. That is a useful addition. One could argue over reasonable excuse, but I think the explanatory statement does help in part.

I foreshadow that we will support the amendment that has just been tabled by the Attorney-General. But I will not then be supporting the clause as amended, because although it is a part fix-up it does not go far enough to address the concerns of the opposition, the Bar Association and others.

Amendment agreed to.

Question put:

That clause 7, as amended, be agreed to.

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