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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 573 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

In relation to this amendment, on 17 October the previous government, a day after the federal government announced it would be bringing in similar legislation to this, indicated that it would proceed with legislation along these lines. At that time we had some legislation on the table. That was, and still is, our preferred legislation. We will see how the government bill goes.

As I indicated earlier, the gist of the government bill seems fine to the opposition. We think it is fundamentally good legislation. However, on 16 October when the federal Attorney-General, Mr Williams, indicated that the federal government was bringing in this legislation, he indicated it would run from 16 October.

I announced that we would be bringing in the legislation on 17 October. I recall a joint press conference between the then Chief Minister, Gary Humphries, Brendan Smyth, who was police minister, and me. We indicated that we would bring in the legislation and that it would run from 17 October. On that day, I think, the then shadow attorney-now Chief Minister and Attorney-indicated that, if his party got into government, they would bring in similar legislation. They have done so.

I note the Chief Minister has not included a clause specifying when the legislation should come in. As I say, we said 17 October. He has stated that it is to be the normal notification day.

Retrospectivity is not normally included in legislation, but this is a particular type of legislation. The Commonwealth have now introduced their legislation and have indicated it is to run from 16 October. It is my understanding that other states have indicated that they will bring in similar legislation and that it will run from a certain date. We indicated on 17 October that we would have the legislation run from that date.

I think the reason for that is fairly obvious. This is unique legislation and there are rather unique circumstances. I am amazed there were so many hoaxes. I thought there were something like a dozen hoaxes in October, but the Chief Minister has indicated that there were something like 100 hoaxes. I am well aware of the damage, angst and fear caused by those hoaxes.

I can recall some major public institutions having their workers evacuated. I can recall the CIT having one of its campuses evacuated because of anthrax scares. There was a lot of expense caused by these hoaxes. A great deal of effort was expended by the emergency services. Someone said they have to respond to each and every one of these instances.

There has also been a lot of fear and angst in the community as a result of these hoaxes. This was caused largely by the fact that some of the anthrax hoaxes in the United States turned out to be real. Indeed, people have died as a result.

These things have to be taken seriously, because they cause the public a lot of angst. As with all crimes, there are probably varying degrees of intent and variations in what occurs when the criminal perpetrates the actual crime. That is something on which a court exercises its discretion on the facts.

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