Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 3286 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
a mystery; these are facts - and the Dangerous Goods Act. The coronial process turned up a failure of the Government to deal with them. They were drawn to the attention of the Government first. I think the coroner wrote to the Attorney-General and said, "This is going to run out if you do not fix it".
Mr Humphries: He did not say that at all.
MR BERRY: He wrote to the Attorney-General and drew it to the attention of the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General did not take satisfactory remedial action to repair the situation - in fact, he just sat on his hands - and the option to prosecute under the occupational health and safety legislation ran out. No penalties were changed. Nothing was changed in respect of anybody who went into that inquiry. All it set out to do was to extend the time limitation; that is all it did. There was much argument about whether it was a procedural or retrospective change to the law. I argued that it was procedural. Mr Humphries argued that it was a retrospective change to the law which impinged upon the civil liberties of people. As it turned out, the Assembly voted in favour of the argument that Labor put, thankfully. I think members were very sensible in the approach that they took. Are you allowed to reflect positively on past votes?
MR SPEAKER: It would be most unusual.
MR BERRY: I just did. I just wondered whether I could get away with that one.
Mr Humphries: Why not try it anyway, as you usually do?
MR BERRY: It is always about testing the water, Mr Humphries, and that is, in fact, what happened here. The testing had to be done because it was an important issue that was raised by the coroner and brought to the attention of the Attorney-General, who did nothing. This minority Government then had to be held in check. The Assembly, in its wisdom, sorted out the matter and put the laws back to the original intention. That is not what is being done in the case of the current legislation. It does not take away from the propriety of this legislation. We think that it is a positive move. But do not try to re-create history because there is nothing in this legislation which has a history such as that which gave rise to the moves to fix up the mess that was created by the incompetence of the Government in relation to those other pieces of legislation, the occupational health and safety legislation and the dangerous goods legislation, which this Assembly, in its wisdom, passed.
MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (3.50): Mr Speaker, I am happy to respond to those issues. The issue that Mr Berry raised to distinguish the situation with the Occupational Health and Safety Bill and this Bill is, as far as I can work out, that in the case of the former the coroner raised the issue of the problem of the time period elapsing and, therefore, because the coroner had raised the issue, it was all right for the Assembly to legislate retrospectively, bearing in mind that the coroner raised the issue before it became retrospective - - -
Mr Berry: Yes, and you did nothing.