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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4150 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I wonder whether a person who takes part in a protest, strike or lockout and who does something completely against the aims of that protest, strike or lockout that might amount to anything would escape just punishment or a just charge for causing it. I am not certain there, but I suppose that that might occur. The numbers are there to see this amendment get up. The Chief Minister is probably right in saying that it is not going to affect the legislation much one way or the other. But, as I said earlier, quite clearly the intention of this provision-the Chief Minister was quite right in saying that it was there even before the events of September 11-is that it be used only in very specific circumstances.

There is ample law to cover damage caused by strikes and demonstrations and, on occasions, it is invoked when those things occur, and will continue to be. I think that this amendment is unnecessary. Also, I still have some doubts, even though this amendment is much better than the first cut, whether it will really do the job that Ms Tucker intends it to do. I have reservations about there being some problems there. Accordingly, we will not be supporting the amendment, although I note that other members of the Assembly will be.

MS DUNDAS (7.45): The ACT Democrats will be supporting this amendment. We were quite happy and pleased to work with both Ms Tucker's office and Mr Stanhope's office to reach what I believe is an agreeable outcome. As I stated earlier in discussing this bill, the offence of sabotage was defined broadly and student protests and industrial actions may be caught under "threat". The concern I had, along with Ms Tucker, was that a peaceful occupation by striking workers would be regarded as committing the offence of sabotage.

There are two elements to sabotage-property damage and the intention of major disruption or economic loss. Property damage includes the loss of the use or function of the property and the intention of industrial action is to bring attention to the plight of workers, which sometimes does mean intending a major disruption or economic loss, so I could see that it would be quite conceivable that this offence could be misused for union bashing in the future.

A lot of the debate on this amendment has focused on the fact that the piece of legislation on this particular offence was drafted before the tragic events of September 11, 2001. With civil liberties being threatened in other jurisdictions by so-called knee-jerk reactions, we need to ensure that we do not shut down society in order to protect it. While these offences are not necessarily a response to the events of September 11, the world has changed and these laws are quite happily going to be applied in the post-September 11 world.

Even though our current Attorney-General might not see the laws being applied in the ways that both Ms Tucker and I fear, we need to ensure that future attorneys-general will not see the laws being applied in the way that we currently fear. We are now going to have the offence of threat, the offence of hoax and the offence of sabotage on the ACT statute book. All those offences are quite wide-ranging in their effect and do have much in common. All could be misused by a less forgiving police force, DPP or attorney to shut down peaceful protests, the tent embassy or union picket lines, all of which could be seen to cause offence to somebody, to cause people to feel threatened or to cause economic loss to business or industry.

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