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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1034 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

even snare a big one. That is what you are all about, Mr Berry, and you know perfectly well that that is what it is all about. But you neglect one factor. This is retrospective but not limited in time. This affects also individuals who may be subject to future coronial inquiries.

For example, if an inquest in the future were to uncover an act which took place some time in the past, an act for which in the view of the inquest someone ought to be prosecuted, then that will be revived by this amendment as well. It is not just necessarily about these individuals. However, those individuals are the ones being very specifically targeted by Mr Berry, and that is very unfortunate, in my view.

I say to members again that today we take an unprecedented step. I think it is shameful that the Australian Labor Party in particular takes action today against workers of the Territory, people who are more than likely the ones who will be targeted by this kind of action. I make no claim today to defend the actions of people who have done the wrong thing in the law, but I do say that if people have the protection of the law, whether that is right or not, whether in principle it should be there or not, the fact is that the principle stands. You do not change it retrospectively. You do not pull that rug out from underneath people after they have already started to enjoy it. Mr Speaker, I think it is extremely unfortunate that today we take the step to do so.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.10): Mr Speaker, T.S. Eliot wrote something to the effect that the world ends with a whimper, not with a bang. I apologise for slightly misquoting him but it is something to that effect. What we are doing here is that very thing. It is the whimper. Change to precedent always happens on a very small matter and a relatively minor matter. In this case there is perhaps some perceived political gain that somebody is trying to achieve. That is usually a good motive to change a precedent.

I think it is incumbent on each and every one of us to be very conscious of what we are doing in terms of this particular precedent. For me, it has to do with what we attempt when we talk about the statute of limitations. There is a limitation within legislation as to how long something can operate. One of the difficulties with the amendment that we have before us now is that it will undermine the faith that anybody ever has from now on that their rights are being respected in terms of any limitation in any Bill.

Mr Berry: Rubbish!

MR MOORE: It is not rubbish, Mr Berry. I understand the motivation for what you are doing. If it was simple, Mr Humphries would not have written to Mr Stanhope and said, "We have these issues to deal with. How do you feel about them?". He would not have written to Mr Osborne. If it was simple, we would not have been through that process. I am not arguing that it is a simple thing that we are dealing with. I am arguing that it is quite a complex thing that we are dealing with, but it does have very long-term ramifications.

To me, the downside, the worst part, of the ramifications is that from now on somebody may believe that legislation has been passed and they are beyond the time limit for prosecution but the Assembly can change that. That is the broad ramification of this

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