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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2791 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

As I have already said, we do not want to further marginalise those groups of people. That is the very opposite of what we want. We want to find ways of being more inclusive in our society so that particular groups in our community do not become more and more defensive. They feel more and more of a need to group together because they feel as if they have become the other in our society, and that is not a good thing for anybody in the long run.

I know that as a member of this Assembly I get a very different view and experience of the forces of law and order in Canberra than other people in this place, Mr Stefaniak in particular. In the absence of any hard, statistical data or strong, coherent arguments and in the absence of any tight regime to oversight the application of these extended powers, I cannot support this further shift in the balance of power towards the police.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (11.39): Most of us would agree that the vast majority of police officers would use this quite well and judiciously. Unfortunately, we suspect that there is a big enough proportion who would be prepared to misuse legislation that gives them the ability to conduct a frisk search, having stopped and detained a person, in a way that harasses. For that reason I am not prepared to support clause 16.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.40): I agree with the sentiment expressed by Mr Moore. In this place we are all, quite justifiably, pleased with the standard of policing in the ACT, and we do not like to raise the spectre of powers being abused. But that is our role and responsibility: to acknowledge that unfettered power will inevitably be abused. It is inevitable. All our experiences tell us that is what happens. This is not a complaint about the AFP or the standard of policing here; it is just a fact of life. I start from that position. We have a responsibility to continue to be vigilant about these basic rights. Law should proceed to some extent-not on the basis that if you are not guilty you have got nothing to worry about. Laws such as these have to proceed to some extent on the basis that we need to protect the basic rights and liberties of the worst of us because there but for the grace of God go all of us.

The Attorney has advised me, in answer to a question I put on notice, that in the last three years the police have arrested 3,800 people without a warrant. In the last three years the power has worked: they arrested 3,800 people without a warrant. They were able to meet the testing standard. The Attorney, in bringing forward an amendment like this, needs to show in what circumstances, in what cases and in how many situations, over and above the 3,800 arrests made without a warrant, the police have desperately needed these new powers. You just have not explained it.

Before the Assembly embraces these sorts of changes, there should at least be some sort of inquiry. Once again, I am concerned that the only people the government consulted in relation to this change were the police and the prosecutors. There was no countervailing view. If you want to make these really fundamental changes to police powers you are also making them to the rights of citizens. That is the corollary. We are enhancing the powers of the police, and in enhancing the powers of the police we are diminishing the rights of the people.

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