Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 585 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The point that was being clearly made was that this was not meant to cover incidents of self-harm. Mr Humphries has now come out and said, "This amendment makes this legislation significantly different." So there is obviously a contradictory position and understanding of what this legislation actually means. I think this amendment has become doubly important because of the debate that has occurred here and in particular the comments from the Liberal Party.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (4.49): Mr Speaker, I want to clarify what I have said in case it was misunderstood. The comments made by the scrutiny of bills committee in their report this afternoon do not reflect in any way upon the government's amendments. They could not because I take it the committee did not know about the amendments, and even if they did, in accordance with our standing orders they could not comment on them. Incidentally, Mr Speaker, I think this is something we should fix up in due course. I think it should be possible for the scrutiny of bills committee to comment on amendments which are on the table to particular pieces of legislation. But that is another debate.
Mr Speaker, I am not referring to the situation of the kind I spoke about, involving a man who goes into the classroom with a gun, as being in any way a political protest, or some sort of legitimate act of demonstration or protest. Let us assume that that act is done for no other reason than to cause alarm and concern to the people there. I hope we would all concede that such an act could take place. Unfortunately, these days there are increasingly large numbers of acts being done in public places, the object of which appears to be to cause the maximum amount of distress and alarm to those who witness them. In those circumstances, Mr Speaker, I think the law ought to provide a sanction.
An example of such an event is the Dunblane massacre, which involved a man who apparently was intent on killing himself but who, at the same time as killing himself, wanted to make a very large statement to the world about his anger at the world and who committed some horrific acts in the course of committing suicide. Mr Speaker, what if such people commit such acts in public places, but do not actually suicide and therefore are not open to prosecution? My view is that they should be subject to prosecution. They should be capable of being prosecuted, and for more than just public mischief.
I am not suggesting that there is any question of political comment or overlay and in a sense that should be irrelevant in any case. Let us say the clear intention of the person is to cause public alarm or mischief, public alarm or anxiety. Their acts cannot be caught by this new piece of legislation because a person is specifically excluded from the ambit of the legislation if the act is one which endangers their own health or life. This specifically excludes the act from that ambit. Mr Speaker, I think that is an oversight. I think that is wrong. I think the act should say something about such circumstances. So, as I say, I hope that will be considered in the future by the government.
Amendment agreed to.
MR STEFANIAK (4.52): I will speak to this and my amendments Nos 3 and 4, so that we do not repeat ourselves. I move amendment No 2 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 591].