Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 990 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
what we are doing is sending a loud and clear message that carrying a knife in the community without good cause is unacceptable, and that there is no more reason for our young people to carry knives than there is for them to carry guns. Because, as the law stands, police can react only when someone is assaulted with a knife, they have no power to try to stop an offence from occurring. This law seeks to give police the power to intervene before a tragedy occurs.
From my discussions with the police, especially in the last three-and-a-half years, I am in no doubt that there is an increase in the number of knives now being carried in the community. It is becoming common for knives to be used in violent crimes. I think it was back in 1995 that I first raised the issue about young people carrying knives in the Tuggeranong Valley, and I was howled down by members of the Labor Party, especially. It is time, Mr Speaker, for us to draw a line. It is time we started talking about the common good of the community with the same vigour we use when we talk about individual civil liberties. I note that this Bill has been attacked by people who parade themselves about town as the sole arbiters of civil liberties. That does not surprise me or disappoint me. Nor will it make me reconsider for one second my support for this Bill or, as we saw, my Crime Prevention Powers Bill. I believe that this Bill is a civil liberties Bill. It seeks to protect the rights of the majority. It protects the right of the majority of people to go about their business without fear.
Ms Tucker has raised a legal point about whether the search powers in the Bill are in conflict with the Constitution. I understand that Mr Rugendyke has advice from Parliamentary Counsel that they can see no problem. In addition, I believe that the Government has legal advice saying that there is a weak case supporting Ms Tucker's legal advice. In addition, this afternoon, on 2CN, a constitutional lawyer from the ANU, George Williams, said that the advice did not make a strong case. Mr Speaker, it is up to us to make the law and for the courts to interpret it. Parliaments do that all the time. If we were frozen with fear every time a lawyer disagreed with our legislation, we would never get anything done.
Once again, Mr Speaker, I support Mr Rugendyke's piece of legislation. I think it is sensible. I think it is proactive. As I said, he and his staff have done a good job in getting this up as quickly as possible. I am pleased that the majority of members are going to support it. I believe that even the Labor Party are going to support some of it, although I am not quite sure about that. I will be supporting it wholeheartedly.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (11.42): Speaking just briefly, Mr Speaker, I can remember that, back in 1979 when I first started prosecuting in the ACT, we would consider it a very bad year if we had two or three robberies in the course of the year. Sadly, now, often a week does not go by without our hearing of some robbery, and knives are often used. The community has a right to be protected. I think society expects bodies like the Assembly to enact laws for the protection of the community. This is a good commonsense move by Mr Rugendyke which I fully support. I have also been very disturbed, Mr Speaker, especially more so now that I have young children, about the number of instances of fights around Canberra and the increasing number in which knives are used. I think it is time we sent a message to people in the community who might like transgressing against the norms that this is simply not on. I think Mr Rugendyke's legislation sends that message out loud and clear, and it is worthy of support.