Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 586 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
When the legislation was announced on 17 October 2001, including the first amendment I moved, which was defeated on about 17 October, we also announced that there would be a fine of $100,000. I note what the Attorney says in relation to legislation around the rest of the country, and it may well be that figure is, in fact, $20,000. We announced $100,000 for a specific reason, which is that it is very rare for courts in this land to ever impose a maximum fine.
This is a particularly serious offence, although there can be various manifestations of how it actually occurs. While I would imagine that most crimes committed under this particular category would warrant a term of imprisonment, there may well be circumstances where a court feels a fine should be imposed as well, or a fine should be imposed in lieu of a term of imprisonment. A fine could be imposed, for example, together with a bond, a community service order or similar.
The nature of this offence means that it causes so a great deal of dislocation in the community, and much expense is incurred by emergency services. I suppose that the old adage that time is money is relevant too when, for example, classes are disrupted if the offence occurs in an educational institution. Earlier, I mentioned the situation where the CIT had to be evacuated owing to one of these threats in October last year.
It may well be that, if a person has the means to pay a fine, a fine would be appropriate, and a substantial fine. As I say, courts rarely impose a maximum fine, and it may well be that a significant financial penalty should be imposed here. $100,000 is certainly a significant maximum. I would not expect a court to impose that fine. As history over the last 10 years has shown, you can probably count on one hand the times when courts around Australia actually imposed a maximum fine for anything.
Imposing this penalty sends a message to the judiciary that the Assembly regards this as a very serious offence and, if the court is considering a fine, it has a wide range of options there, including a very significant maximum, to consider. Quite often courts set fines at, say, 40 per cent, 50 per cent or 20 per cent of a maximum. For something like this, I think we need to send a very clear message that this is a rather unique type of offence, because it not only scares many people in our community but also results in a significant financial cost, both to the community and to community services, such as ambulance, fire brigade, police and emergency services, who have to attend. I think a serious fine for such offences is very important.
Again, it is something that we flagged we would do on 17 October. We indicated what we proposed as the maximum fine. We are abiding by what we said we would do then, but there are some very good reasons for that. I note what the Attorney has said in relation to the model code. I can see why he is sticking with that. However, I think that, because of the nature of this offence, and also because we did announce that we would be proposing this fine for this unique type of offence, it is appropriate to have a such a significant maximum fine. As I said earlier, I suspect that it would hardly ever be used, but at least it would indicate to the courts how serious the legislature considers such offences to be.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (4.56): Just for the record, I wish to indicate that we will not be supporting these amendments, Mr Speaker.