Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 994 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
But that is not easy to do. I have only to walk a little further than that shop and go to another one in the Civic area which sells kitchen knives. Are we to ban those? Each one of those kitchen knives has a clearly useful function or purpose. Yet they are no less lethal than the knives in the other shop I mentioned. To me, that demonstrates the problem.
I do believe we need to run an education campaign, but that is very difficult. We have done it over the years with tobacco, with cigarette smoking. We did it more recently with guns. Maybe it is time to start doing it with knives, but that will be no easy task. Changing a culture is not easy at any time; but in this case, since it appears to be a growing culture - I do not think it has been a longstanding habit amongst Australian people to carry knives - we ought to be paying some attention to it. If this Bill helps us in some way, it is a good thing. Therefore, I am happy to support it to the extent that we do.
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.55): Mr Speaker, I rise to support this legislation. It actually has been a quite difficult decision for me, because I think members would have understood from my speech on move-on powers that I believe there are issues of civil liberties which are particularly important and which we should guard. Like all of us, I balance those against what is in the community interest. I see a growing attitude that the carrying of knives is acceptable, and I believe we should also have harsh knife laws like the harsh gun laws that were adopted by this country. I hear other members agreeing with that, I must say. So, the question is: Where do you get the balance between the sorts of knife laws that you have now and these new laws, so that I do not get stopped from carrying my Swiss army knife on my belt, which I almost always do on the weekend? How do we draw the distinction? It is very difficult to draw the distinction. The issue, I think, can be resolved by regulation.
There is also the issue of whether people should be able to be searched, under what circumstances they should be searched, and whether there is an appeal against that. Of course, when the legislation builds in reasonable grounds, then there are grounds upon which to lodge an appeal. That, to me, is the element of contestability. It is a weak element of contestability in this legislation, I think. As I said, it is a reason why I agonised for quite some time. In fact, Mr Rugendyke will verify that, because I discussed with him on quite a number of occasions how we could improve this legislation. I suggested to him that I thought it would be a far better method for us, in terms of the approach we took, to use the same sort of approach as we use for videos and actually have a board that determines whether a particular knife can or cannot be sold. If we were to do that Australia-wide, I think we would be able to manage. In the ACT, I do not think we would be able to manage in any practical way, which is unfortunate.
It may be time for the Attorney-General to take this issue to his ministerial colleagues across Australia, in the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, and raise whether or not we can find a sensible way to regulate the sorts of knives that come into Australia. But it is difficult, because we also know that there are people who use diving knives, and quite rightly so. Of course, diving knives are a particularly lethal form of knife.