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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4261 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

committee also reported on the Senate committee inquiry into strict liability offences, and I hope members have found that useful in considering this matter.

I believe that there are some places in this bill where we will be going too far if we apply unmediated strict liability, and I will be supporting all but one of Ms Dundas's amendments in the detail stage. It is not a good argument to claim that we must do strict liability because it exists in the Criminal Code.

When we introduced the Criminal Code, there was no agreement to being absolutely bound by its provisions. Further, in this different act, there is absolutely no need to use unaltered, unconsidered provisions from the Criminal Code. The code project aimed to codify what had become common law principles used to interpret the statutory law and so effectively tidy up and make more transparent the law books. It also aimed to have some consistency in interpretation of terms across the country, and that is fine. All jurisdictions will share a definition of strict liability offences.

That does not prevent, and it should not prevent, us applying strict liability in a careful and qualified way. It is disturbing to hear that argument coming from this government. Indeed, that contradicts the explanatory statement's note on page 27 that the Criminal Code provides that all strict liability offences have a specific defence of mistake of fact in addition to any specific defences set out in other legislation. In harmonising the offence provisions in the bill with the Criminal Code, there is absolutely nothing to stop us specifying an appropriate type of defence in the interests of justice and procedural fairness.

The key provisions of this bill are that it clarifies the arrangements concerning volunteers and trainees and makes it easier for employers to offer on-the-job training to disadvantaged job seekers when those trainings are covered through the organisations or schools to which they belong. There are also simplifications and adjustments that are clearly informed by the ongoing work of the Workers Compensation Advisory Committee. I think we can see here the advantages of a consultative model which does include the relevant parties. Finally, the most important inclusion in the bill is the incorporation of the agreed national approach to cross-border workers compensation coverage.

Given the range of workers compensation schemes around the country, and the variety and complexity of employment situations, it is important that there are clear agreements as to which scheme would apply to an injured worker in any situation. I commend the government for this work.

MS GALLAGHER (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (8.14), in reply: I begin by thanking members for their contribution and for their in-principle support of this bill. This bill builds on the reforms of the ACT private sector workers compensation scheme that commenced operation in 2002. The ACT Occupational Health and Safety Council Workers Compensation Advisory Committee, including representatives of employers, unions, approved workers compensation insurers and the medical, rehabilitation and legal professions, support these amendments.

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