Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1196 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
Commonwealth of Australia, Lyall Gillespie's Canberra 1820-1913, Bush Fire Council annual reports, bushfire organisation files and Canberra Times articles.
Making the lighting of a bushfire a full-on crime gives credit to those people who give voluntarily of their time to fight bushfires. How frustrating it must be for the people who respond to bushfires when the lighting of such fires is not regarded by our community to be significant enough to be an offence in its own right. I am pleased to see this legislation.
To stiffen penalties you do not necessarily have to jack up the amount. You can just jack up the profile. You can say that we regard this as a specific offence. I think we said the same sorts of things when the former minister brought in road rage legislation. We disagreed on the detail, but we did not disagree on the principle. We believed that the prevalence of road rage warranted it being an offence in its own right. It was just the administration of it that we disagreed on.
I commend this bill to the chamber. I commend anything which will stop the deliberate lighting of fires. I urge all members to examine the report the Committee on Legal Affairs, looking into fireworks, received from WorkCover. It has been authorised for publication, so it is on the public record. That report gives evidence that bushfires have been deliberately lit with fireworks being used as incendiary devices.
Mr Speaker, this is not a simple issue; it is a serious one. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (11.12), in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate. As has been indicated during the debate, this bill creates the new offence of deliberately lighting a bushfire.
Mr Stefaniak quite rightly pointed out that the catalyst for the development of the legislation was not so much the fact that we had particularly serious fires in Canberra last Christmas but that the states and territories, through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, have been working for some time-it seems like forever-on a model criminal code. Through that process, the states and territories and the Commonwealth have agreed on model criminal code provisions in relation to bushfires.
As Mr Stefaniak indicated in his speech, the federal Attorney-General, Mr Williams, wrote to each of the jurisdictions in Australia after the devastating fires in New South Wales and the ACT and indicated to them the Commonwealth's desire to see a national approach to bushfire legislation. We responded to that approach from the Commonwealth.
There was some misunderstanding from the crossbench about exactly what it is proposed this legislation will do. This is a new offence. This was not a knee-jerk response to demands or a desire to jack up penalties. In fact, Ms Dundas, the penalties have not been increased. You are wrong.