Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 580 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
The Leader of the Opposition gave us some examples of this sort of activity. While he was talking, I was musing about of some examples of self-harm and the possible causing of public anxiety, such as jumping off a detention centre building onto razor wire. What should we do with these people? Should we lock them up for 10 years? What about people who risk self-harm and cause public anxiety by standing in front of a tank? This is also a legitimate public action. What should we do with these people? Lock them up for 10 years?
We are focusing on people who are causing public alarm but are not actually hurting others; people who are not going through with an act. We are talking about hoaxes. We must realise that hunger strikes and these cases I have already mentioned of people going to extreme lengths are legitimate acts of public awareness raising and of political disobedience. To that end, I think these amendments go a long way to addressing the concerns that have been raised by me and Ms Tucker today about this law unintentionally impacting on people conducting legitimate political protest.
MS TUCKER (4.31): We also support this amendment. This matter was noted in the report of the scrutiny of bills committee. It is news to me if Mr Humphries is now suggesting that this legislation will cover the kinds of incidents that he gave examples of. I was hearing from government that in fact this was not what would come out of the existing wording. That is why Mr Stanhope said he thought this particular amendment was necessary. Obviously, the opposition said, "No, don't do it because it's going to stop us in fact having this law interpreted in the way that we were concerned that it would be interpreted." It seems the opposition wants it to be understood that way.
We have almost now moved into a different debate. Ms Dundas talked about legitimate protesters moving across the line and threatening to act in a way to cause public alarm and hoax. I think we need to have a debate on that broad spectrum. But this sort of thing has not occurred. This amendment makes it quite clear that in fact we are not going down that track with this legislation, and it is on those grounds that I am supporting this legislation at this point.
I heard what Ms Dundas said and I think she has misunderstood to a degree. I have similar concerns. However, when the courts look at what has been said in the context of this debate, at the explanatory memorandum and at the associated intrinsic material, I think it is clear that it could not be interpreted that the intention of the legislation is to stop a protest. You have to prove, as Mr Stanhope pointed out, the intention of causing public alarm; plus you have to be shown to have done something that could endanger human life or health; and you have to do something that, in the circumstances in which it is done, a reasonable person would suspect and this has to be warranted by facts. We have had that debate.
So, I think the amendment is very important. Indeed, if this amendment is not supported then I will not be able to support this legislation.
MR STEFANIAK (4.35): Mr Humphries raised a very good point. I recall there have been a number of instances in the ACT where someone did threaten to do harm to themselves and there were other people around who obviously suffered some consequences. Mr Humphries made a very valid point and I think there is a real potential danger.