Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 996 ..
MR RUGENDYKE (12.03 am), in reply: I thank all members of the Assembly for basic support of this Bill - guarded support, in some cases. I respect the views of Mr Stanhope, Ms Tucker and the Labor Party in general in relation to the search powers and concede that we come from different philosophical perspectives on this issue. The search power in itself is a key aspect of the Bill which makes it workable. At the moment people are able to carry concealed knives in their socks, down their backs, or down the front of their pants. The police are able to do nothing about it until these people take the knife out and perform the final act of damage, whether that damage is fatal, lethal, serious or what. This is workable, sensible legislation that allows knives to be taken out of the system. We see daily reports of assaults, robberies and offences involving knives. We need to get them out of the hands of people that are going to do damage.
One key aspect behind my confidence in the success of this Bill came just the other day from a youth worker who was totally frustrated by their inability to deal with this issue. They know that the kids coming into their premises are carrying knives; they know that these knives can be brought out in fights and in dangerous situations. They applaud the fact that now they will be able to call the police if they have a reasonable suspicion that someone is carrying a knife. "Reasonable suspicion" seems to be another aspect that people are concerned about. "Reasonable suspicion" is, in a way, a key to success in the art of policing - that discretionary power that police are able to use. "Reasonable suspicion" has been developed over the centuries and is laid down in case law. There are books six inches or a foot thick that describe what "reasonable suspicion" is. Once police step over that line, once police abuse that discretion, the sanctions are there - and, believe me, they are - the Ombudsman, the threat of civil action, and the threat of the loss of your job. They are real consequences if the right thing is not done.
As I have said, the main sticking point is the search power. It is a key element of the Bill. I respect the views of those who are concerned about the liberties of these potential offenders, but my view is that the liberties of ordinary people going about their daily business in safety override the liberties of those who would do us damage. I thank members for their support of the Bill as it is and commend the Bill to the Assembly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Clauses 1 to 4, by leave, taken together, and agreed to.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (12.08 am): Mr Speaker, the Opposition is opposing clause 5. I spoke briefly to this before. I do not know whether I need to reiterate that. I think the issues have been covered. I would repeat, however, my concern that we are actually introducing into the Crimes Act another power of search in relation to this offence. I think powers of search are very significant powers. I think we should look