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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4069 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

The bill also rewrites some of the statute book in regards to property crime, including the bushfire offences that were rushed through earlier this year to try to catch the media interest that existed.

Mr Speaker, the ACT Democrats will be supporting this bill, but will continue to monitor the use of the criminal code, imprisonment rates and crime prevention strategies to make sure that the ACT does not go down the path of the crass "law and order"campaigns of other states. I also welcome the amendments that have been circulated by Ms Tucker, and I will discuss them further in the detail stage.

MS TUCKER (11.07): The criminal code project, as I said in 2001, is basically a tidying up of our statute books. The process has been carried out by officers from each state and territory jurisdiction through a process of assessing the common law in each jurisdiction, various law reform reports, and arguments raised in submissions.

The aim is to firstly make the principles of criminal law more apparent to citizens by incorporating many parts of court-made law into the statute books. Secondly, there is some intent to lessen the differences between the laws in each state or territory. On this second point, I was reassured to have it emphasised in briefings that this code does not bind the ACT. Also, the important process of courts developing principles in common law will continue. This is not an end to the development of our laws through wise consideration of the detail of real lives and the changing norms of our society. It is a valuable and robust system.

There is no requirement for the ACT to get agreement from other states or territories before we change our laws in the future, nor to amend legislation now. The code, by setting a form, will in any case go a long way to making jurisdictions more similar if and when all jurisdictions implement the code. We do not want to be held to a lowest common denominator. The diversity of views among the members of the Australian Commonwealth allows us to develop innovative ways of addressing problems, many of which we share, but which will all have a bit of a different context in each state.

I do have some concern that, while the code is developed through a national system of consultation and by a committee of departmental officers, including our own representative, when it comes to implementing it here we will not make use of our law reform committee to work through fully, again at a local level, with local stakeholders and courts.

I know that the department has consulted with stakeholders, and has taken on board some of the suggestions. But I have heard some feedback that the time frame, especially on the final bill, was not long enough for organisations to make the kinds of careful reflective comments that we would expect, and we do not have an ACT report to refer to.

We have a law reform commission here, which used to be an important organ for law review and development. The commission in its current form is certainly far from being adequately resourced, and that is something the Greens are keen to see restored, refurbished even, perhaps by making it a statutory body. But we will come back to that later.

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