Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 110 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
I think that that improvement is fair enough, as is the Liquor Act improvement. A number of these improvements have come to light as a result of problems experienced by the courts with the existing law. Something has been raised and the law, obviously, has needed improving and it is important that the law is amended when we do see problems with its operation. We have one such instance here in relation to the Liquor Act in terms of the definition of a bar room. I understand that it is the result of a recent case in the AAT. The amendment simplifies the situation. Some of the acts and regulations we have are somewhat complex, often unduly so. This amendment is an improvement in that regard.
A similar situation exists with regard to infringement notices issued under the Magistrates Court Act. Some of the matters which, properly, are dealt with by infringement notices actually carry as well a term of imprisonment. Infringement notices are for relatively minor matters and cannot be used currently if there is also a penalty of imprisonment. It is quite common to see reference in legislation to a maximum penalty of $1,000 and/or three months imprisonment or six months imprisonment. Obviously, it is sensible for the issuing officer there to have the discretion to issue an infringement notice for, for example, $200, being a realistic penalty for the type of offence, as it is not going to be any more if the matter goes to court. I can recall such an issue arising when the cannabis infringement notices first came in.
I do think we need to improve that as there are some real problems with it, but the concept was probably reasonable in that infringement notices for $40 to $100 were fairly similar to what people were being fined in courts for minor infringements. Perhaps it was not unreasonable to have infringement notices there. Other parts of that scheme might be a problem, but I give that as an example. Again, I think this is a fairly sensible amendment. The example given in the explanatory memorandum is quite sensible. It is about a minor matter to do with the Liquor Act, I think, and indicates that it something for which a term of imprisonment as well as a fine applies. Obviously, the use of an infringement notice is sensible there.
A number of other acts are being amended and the Opposition will be supporting those amendments. We have also seen, belatedly, government amendments and the reasons for them. They relate to some matters in, I think, Ron Cahill's court where there were some problems. They clarify the law. They will also assist in clarifying the law in terms of dealing with some other cases that are backing up, as I understand the situation. Accordingly, we have no real problems with those amendments. I note that Ms Tucker has some amendments which, obviously, she will speak to. I thank the Chief Minister for a quick briefing in relation to the government's attitude to those as well. The Opposition will be supporting this legislation.
MS TUCKER (4.05): This omnibus bill is a combination of mostly technical changes and some policy changes. The Greens have some concerns about a number of points. At the appropriate time, I will be moving an amendment to the Attorney-General's amendment regarding clarifying the Magistrates Court's jurisdiction to hear and determine commercial and retail lease matters. I have a few comments to make on other matters of interest to me as well.