Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 3485 ..
MR HARGREAVES: I seek leave to make a statement about scrutiny report No 37 which has just been delivered by the Chair of the Legal Affairs Standing Committee.
MR HARGREAVES: I wanted to do two things. Firstly, I wanted to make comment on the public record about how easy it is for the media to misinterpret something which is provided in the form of an Assembly standing committee report. One of the major planks of scrutiny report No 37, which has been a recurrent theme for many reports in previous assemblies as well as this one, is the issue of strict liability. Many reports of this standing committee's comments on that were actually wrong, Mr Speaker. They talked about how horrible the strict liability could be if it was applied to certain transgressions.
Mr Speaker, the actual report talks about the need for the government-and with a particular message to Parliamentary Counsel-to explain why something should be a strict liability offence. There is nothing surprising about strict liability offences, Mr Speaker. Your parking tickets, your speeding tickets, they are all strict liability offences. You can say, "Oh, sorry, I didn't notice what I was doing,"or, "I wasn't paying attention."In my own case, I actually crossed double unbroken lines to avoid having an accident. Nonetheless, I was guilty of having crossed double yellow lines and Magistrate Dobson duly fined me half a week's pay for doing so.
The thing here, Mr Speaker, is that strict liability is nothing new, and in certain offences it is the most appropriate liability to apply to these transgressions. The issue wasn't about the application of strict liability to some offences, which is what the media report was all about; it was about the need for Parliamentary Counsel, through the government of the day, to tell us why it needs to be a strict liability offence.
Mr Speaker, there are two messages. One is to the media, if you are listening: get it right. If you are confused about these things, ask someone that knows. The chairman of this particular standing committee is a lawyer. The same thing can't be said for the previous chairman who was a footballer. But sometimes I see a similarity, I have to tell you, Mr Speaker. Nonetheless, there are plenty of experts who can tell you the difference between strict liability and others. Do not portray a thing incorrectly.
The very strong message of course to Parliamentary Counsel is that, when you're preparing explanatory memoranda or presentation speeches, tell the Assembly why you say that strict liability needs to be applied.
But the other thing, Mr Speaker, I wanted to highlight-and it doesn't happen that often-is that the committee actually makes consistent points to the government of the day. This did happen, I have to say, under the previous government, so this is nothing new. But it is new in this particular issue.
I draw members' attention to page 4 of the computer report. When dealing with the Victims Of Crime (Financial Assistance) Amendment Bill 2003, the committee, in fact, talks about undue trespass and rights of liberties and says: