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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4262 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

The committee has worked diligently in the first year of the new scheme to assist the government and the scheme participants in managing the substantial changes to the scheme that commenced on 1 July 2002. The bill continues to ensure the new ACT workers compensation scheme is responsive to the shifting demands and priorities identified by the scheme's participants.

This bill makes important amendments associated with new national agreements on workers compensation cross-border coverage. It also makes minor policy changes to clarify the approach of the scheme in relation to volunteers, trainees, the limitation period, insurers' obligation on notification of injury, medical certificates, the reporting of wages to insurers and repayments of statutory lump sum.

The bill also includes amendments to implement the criminal law reforms contained in the Criminal Code 2002. All amending legislation introduced after 1 January 2003 must be compliant with the new Criminal Code provisions. As some of the policy amendments proposed by this bill affected offence provisions, it was necessary to restructure those provisions to make them compliant with the Criminal Code.

I would like to reassure members that the proposed amendments in many cases simply clarify strict liability offences that already existed in the act. The bill will create two new provisions with offences that are designated as strict liability, and the existing strict liability offences would be more visible than before.

Each section in the act which has a penalty attached would now clearly identify what element constitutes a breach of the section and whether or not a specific mental fault element is necessary. If there is a mental fault element necessary, the bill specifies what type of fault element it is-knowingly, recklessly or negligently at fault. Where there is no mental element required, then the offence is an offence of strict liability.

This is the first act that has been so amended. The Criminal Code amendments are contained in clause 2 of the bill. The amendments serve to clearly identify which of the existing offences are strict liability in nature and clearly identify mental fault elements for those offences that are not strict liability in nature.

These changes are consistent with the decision that this Assembly made when it passed the Criminal Code in 2002. Every amendment in this schedule simply implements the Criminal Code as enacted by the Assembly for the purposes of the Workers Compensation Act.

The scrutiny of bills committee in their report and Ms Dundas have expressed concerns about the strict liability offences contained in the bill and the potential for strict liability offences to remove the rights and freedoms of individuals. If members do not believe that particular offences should be strict liability offences, then members should argue which of the mental fault elements found in the Criminal Code should apply to that section. The scrutiny committee held concerns in relation to the penalty provisions in subsections 191 (5) and 210 (1) which included a term of imprisonment for a strict liability offence.

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