Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (24 March) . . Page.. 770 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
Mr Speaker, these issues are extremely serious. We cross an important bridge today if we pass this legislation, as amended. It is an unprecedented step. I ask members to consider carefully whether they are making a mistake. The people that we are dealing with are people who are workers, who most likely, I expect, would include potentially employees of this community, public servants of this community, who, at the present time, are not criminals. They are not criminals in respect of this legislation because the legislation provides that after 12 months any liability that they may have under the legislation ceases and they have no liability under that legislation. If we pass this legislation, those persons would become criminals.
Whether you think it is a good idea or not to give the ACT Government a kick in the head about this issue, to embarrass it, to drag it through the newspapers, that is fine. I am a big boy, as are the other members of this front bench; we will cop that if it happens. But the people out there whose actions are being criminalised are not in the same position.
Mr Stanhope: They are not.
MR HUMPHRIES: They would be, Mr Speaker. That is it; they would be. Their position is being affected by this and it is a major step to take, Mr Speaker. I ask members to consider whether this is the right thing to do. It may be a serious mistake, Mr Speaker, and I ask members to consider again.
MR KAINE (3.52): The Attorney-General a short time ago exhorted the crossbenchers to listen to what he was saying, somehow on the assumption that because we were not sitting here we were not listening. I have been listening very carefully. I had a pretty clear view of this position before the Attorney-General spoke. Now, I must say, I am extremely troubled with the proposition that the Attorney-General puts forward. His argument appears to rest on the fact that people who have committed a criminal offence ought not to be liable. He is saying that if we put this Bill through they will be made criminals. They could not be made criminals if they had not committed an offence that was a criminal offence in the first place. I do not see that what we are doing here is in any way turning anybody into a criminal. If they have already committed a criminal offence, they have done that.
The thing that troubles me more than anything else about the Attorney-General's contribution to this debate is that he seems to be taking the view that, the matter having been brought to his attention by the coroner, as I understand that it was, he was perfectly justified in doing nothing.
Mr Humphries: I didn't do nothing.
MR KAINE: You did nothing. That is why this piece of legislation is on the table now. If you had been doing your job, you would have had this amendment on the table months ago and the situation would not now be arising.
Mr Humphries: The amendment is wrong. We did not decide to do it because we did not believe that it was important or appropriate to do that.