Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (25 March) . . Page.. 838 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
Mr Speaker, when somebody is taken to a police station and tested, by blowing the bag, for exceeding the prescribed limit of alcohol in their bloodstream, we put them on a test machine. They have not been convicted in a court, but it is obvious to the policeman at the time from the strip list that these people have committed an offence at law. But they still have not been convicted. They are still innocent before the law. The paperwork that is handed up to the magistrate actually says on it that the person has been informed of their rights in one form or another. It is already there. What we are talking about now is actually taking away somebody's right of choice.
I was really disturbed to hear what Mr Rugendyke said, and I will quote it. Talking about the mentally ill, he said, "In whose judgment are these people mentally ill?". How dare we stand in this place in judgment and say things like Mr Rugendyke has just said! He said, "Should they be able to insist on a court appearance? Should anybody be able to insist that they appear before a court?". How deplorable and how disgusting is that? It is that sort of attitude that gives most of the policemen in this town a bad name. I was absolutely shocked when I heard it.
Mr Speaker, I would urge members of this place to think seriously about what we are saying here. This initiative on the part of the Government is a good one. It is a top one, it is a great idea, and a lot of people are going to take advantage of it. A lot of people will not know that they can. A lot of people do not want the indignity of standing there in the dock and they will take advantage of it, but it is their choice. I urge members to think seriously about this matter and not take away people's ability to choose the manner in which they will be paraded before a magistrate. Also, if I have to, I will beg this Assembly to make sure that people are informed of that choice. In every other dealing that we have where there is a potential breach of the law, we tell people what options they have. All of a sudden, we are making judgments about whether somebody has a mental condition or whether somebody is guilty. If that is the case, what on earth do we have a court for? It is an absolute mockery. The members who do not support this amendment are treating the courts with absolute mockery.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (12.19): I have given serious consideration to what the Opposition has put forward in these amendments and I was at one point inclined to consider that we might be able to support them; but, on further discussion with interested parties in this matter, I have been persuaded that it is not possible for us to support them.
Mr Hargreaves: Why?
MR HUMPHRIES: I will explain that, if you will listen. I suspect that members opposite who have proposed these amendments might not have thought about the implications of them in some respects. I think we need to remind ourselves that we are talking about a quite small number of people to whom these provisions would be relevant.
Mr Hargreaves: What!