Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3917 ..
MR DE DOMENICO (Minister for Urban Services) (4.49), in reply: Mr Speaker, I thank the Opposition for its support. I think we should get on with the other items of business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.
Bill agreed to.
Debate resumed from 26 September 1996, on motion by Mr Humphries:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MS FOLLETT (4.50): Mr Speaker, again the Opposition will be supporting this Bill put forward by the Attorney-General. To very briefly outline our reasons for supporting the Bill: I believe it is essential that witnesses are not able to be threatened or intimidated or caused harm in the course of criminal investigations and the bringing of criminals to justice. Unfortunately, that kind of threat, that kind of causing of harm, has been known to occur, and I think it is very important that we take steps to protect witnesses who may be subject to that kind of treatment. As I understand it, the Bill will actually formalise the ACT's participation in the national witness protection program which operates under the Commonwealth's Witness Protection Act 1994. It is a formalisation of an arrangement that may have existed to date.
There are a couple of aspects of this Bill that I was particularly anxious to look at. The first aspect, and it is a very current issue, was the powers of the ACT Chief Police Officer to determine whether or not a person will be included in the witness protection program. I think it is very important that we maintain in our community the control of that kind of determination. It is also important for our Chief Police Officer to be able to determine the level at which such protections and assistance are provided, so that we do have a degree of ACT involvement and ACT decision-making even though this is, essentially, a Commonwealth scheme. The legislation that Mr Humphries has brought forward also makes provision for the ACT's Registrar-General to take appropriate action in relation to birth certificates, marriage certificates and so on, to ensure that the witness protection scheme is able to operate effectively, without the witness being able to be traced through those kinds of formal documents. These two aspects of the Bill particularly commend themselves to me: There is the required level of local involvement, local authority, in this Bill; there is also the required level of protection of documents, locally produced legal documents, that you would expect to see.