Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2004) . . Page.. 2618 ..
Ordered that executive business be called on.
Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2004
Debate resumed from 14 May 2004, on the motion by Mr Stanhope:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR STEFANIAK (11.26): The opposition will be supporting this bill. However, I note with a little bit of concern—and I have had the benefit of a briefing from the Law Society of the ACT—that the government has made a number of fairly quick amendments to the bill, especially to get itself out of a bit of jam it found itself in in relation to the start of new provisions that will affect buyers and sellers of houses. I assume that Mr Wood will be handling that when we come to the detail stage and I might leave it until then to make a few more comments.
Generally, this bill is one of the consolidation bills that come before the Assembly from time to time. It contains a number of matters that probably do not justify being the subject of substantive bills put before the Assembly. I do, however, issue a word of caution. I think we are seeing quite a few consolidation bills from this government—far more than we have ever seen in the past—and I would caution them about getting into too much of a habit in relation to such a practice. I think it is far better to bring in specific pieces of legislation where you can, rather than lump a large number of matters in one consolidation bill—especially when some of those matters contain significant changes to the law.
As I said, I will make some comments later about the government amendments in relation to the sale of land, and I will be opposing another part of the bill. However, even without the government amendments, there is nothing particularly earth shattering about the bill as it stands.
Firstly, I must say that I am pleased to see the new Crimes Act provision on page 8, which inserts a new section of common assault, making it a summary offence. This means that a person commits an offence if they assault someone. The maximum penalty is 50 penalty units, which is $5,000, or imprisonment for six months, or both. There are some consequential amendments in relation to the criminal code. We will now have two offences of common assault, one of which is indictable. That means a defendant can have their day in court and can opt for a trial by jury. I have seen that happen on quite a few occasions—I have often wanted to defend one of them just for the fun of it—and I prosecuted a couple in the Supreme Court.
When you consider that the maximum penalty for common assault is $5,000 and imprisonment for six months, I think it is a little bit over the top to expend a huge amount—tens of thousands of dollars—to take a relatively minor offence to the Supreme Court. That option is still available for more serious matters, and that will be something, I assume, for the prosecution to determine.