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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 988 ..


Debate resumed from 20 May 1998, on motion by Mr Rugendyke:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.31): Mr Speaker, I will be even briefer on this Bill than I was on the previous Bill.

Mr Moore: Be sharp and to the point.

MR HUMPHRIES: Sharp and to the point; thank you, yes. I can see that this will be a debate at the cutting edge, will it not, Mr Moore? Mr Speaker, this Bill prohibits the carriage of knives without reasonable excuse. The Crimes Act has a general provision dealing with possession of an offensive weapon, which could be a knife. The proposal to strengthen the law in relation to an area which is of significant community concern should not present any difficulties, I believe, to any fair-minded person.

This proposal, I believe, addresses what has been a matter of concern to some in the community, and that is the increasing frequency with which knives are carried, particularly by young people, and the extent to which knives are being used increasingly in offences in public places, maybe even on the streets and footpaths. There is a very good case, I believe, for dealing with this issue, as in the case of the previous Bill, on a preventative basis. Obviously, we would like to make sure that we catch people who use knives for particular offences, such as assaults or batteries or robberies; but, more than that, we need to put in place a power to ensure that those who carry knives for no good purpose are prevented from doing so.

Mr Speaker, this legislation will depend on the cooperation and goodwill of the police who administer it. If police abuse the powers to confiscate knives which are contained in the legislation, then clearly the legislation will not work well. However, as I have indicated already once tonight, I believe that the police who operate in this Territory - the Australian Federal Police - are more than capable of administering such laws with integrity and fairly to the whole community. I do not know whether those opposite will take the view that, although the police cannot be trusted, apparently, to deal with move-on powers fairly, they can, however, be trusted to confiscate the knives of young people in a fair fashion. I look forward with interest to the comments they will make in the course of this debate.

Speaking for this side of the chamber, I have no doubt that this is an appropriate and important development in the law. It will ensure that we are able to deal with a problem in a forthright way. I have little doubt that the application of this power in the hands of the police will probably prevent many young people from carrying knives at all and will therefore avoid a situation where confrontation with the police is necessary. By that I mean that, when it becomes clear that police will exercise this power and do from time to time confiscate knives, others who might think it is appropriate or trendy to do so will reconsider that course of action because they will lose their knives in the process. That is not a bad thing, in my view, and it should be supported by the Assembly.

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