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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 574 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

The Chief Minister was quite right in terms of the effects of these hoaxes, the damage they cause to the community and the very real need for proper legislation with proper penalties. The opposition concurs wholeheartedly with the comments he has made today in relation to that. It also concurs wholeheartedly with his comment that they could not possibly have been intended to be used for demonstrations and things like that. I will come to that later.

There is one thing on which we will disagree with the government. All right, I understand that no-one has been caught to date. It may be that no-one will be apprehended for these particular offences. It also may well be that they will be.

However, if anyone who puts the community at risk, and in fear, causes a lot of angst and expense to the emergency services and everyone else involved, is actually caught for an offence committed probably a couple of weeks from now-and I assume the government is going to get its bill up in this particular regard-then, as the Chief Minister says, the most they can be charged with is a misdemeanour. There is a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,000. That is the maximum, despite the angst, despite the intent, despite the damage caused to our community as a result of these hoaxes-and the fear engendered in perhaps tens, dozens, hundreds or even thousands of Canberra citizens.

That is why we feel that it should be commenced on the day we said it would be. Quite often, Mr Speaker, with police operations-and I know something about those from my days as a prosecutor-you will have someone who is picked up for another offence actually admitting to a series of offences. It is quite conceivable that there will be, in the months to come, people apprehended for these particular matters-the crimes they have committed back in October or November of last year. As the bill currently stands, they can be charged only with a misdemeanour. I do not think that is right.

If we, the federal government, or indeed some of the state governments, had not said, "We will date this legislation from the day we are making the announcement," the opposition would not be moving this amendment, because it offends the general principle against retrospectivity. However, we announced on 17 October that the bill we would introduce would run from that date. That is totally consistent with the federal government and, to my understanding, other states too.

For the reasons I have stated, I think it is important that, in this instance, this bill run from 17 October when we announced it. Accordingly, I commend amendment No 1 circulated in my name.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (4.08): Mr Speaker, the government will not support the proposal that these provisions be made retrospective. I understand what Mr Stefaniak is suggesting. Nevertheless, I think that, as a rule, we should avoid making criminal provisions retrospective.

There is often pressure on us to make provisions retrospective. Sometimes there is a very strong temptation to do so, and sometimes one is persuaded that there are occasions or circumstances when retrospectivity is relevant. Indeed, there have been a couple of occasions, in relation to particular circumstances that have arisen, on which retrospective

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