Page 866 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 March 2005
My amendment adds a new class of people who should be considered when the regulator is returning evidential material which has been held in accordance with this legislation. If the actual owner of the material cannot be located—and I take the Chief Minister’s point; it would be an unusual circumstance when the actual owner could not be located, but we are always talking about unusual circumstances and many laws turn on those—the person who was lawfully in possession of the material at the time it was seized could have the material returned to them. This is a fairly standard approach to returning confiscated materials.
The concern that was raised with me about this matter was that the provisions, as they stood in the bill, were out of kilter with many provisions in ACT law and did seem to do away with the principles of possession and the rights of possession. I suppose we all apply the adage that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and to some extent that was being undermined by this piece of legislation.
I was a bit slow to act on it in the first instance simply because this is commonwealth template legislation and this legislation was handed down from on high. The thing that made me think that it was worth doing is that it does actually, by virtue of commonwealth template legislation, make amendments to property law and not to environmental law in the ACT which I thought were worth preserving. It does create a small problem for the commonwealth regulator in that he would be administering this section in accordance with one set of laws for everybody and a vaguely amended set of laws for the ACT. He would have to keep his wits about him on the rare occasions when this issue would arise.
I think I have consulted enough to convince me that this is a necessary amendment, a small amendment, but it is a matter of principle in maintaining property law; and, in amending it, it does not in any way affect the environmental provisions of this legislation. I commend the amendment to members.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (12.11): The government is happy to support the amendment. I just reiterate the point that Mrs Dunne made: the ACT government was responding to template legislation; the provision is a provision that was drafted by the commonwealth; it is not our design or our wording.
I acknowledge that there are some oddities around it or around the possibility. The government has no difficulties with the amendment, other than to note that it is now quite likely that the ACT, of all the Australian jurisdictions, will have a different section 57 than any other place in Australia. I do not think that is a particular hardship and I do not think it is an issue of concern, but I just make that point.
Amendment agreed to.
Remainder of bill, as a whole, as amended, agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.13 to 2.30 pm.