Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 10 March 2005) . . Page.. 915 ..
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (5.22): As members know, the debate on this matter was adjourned this morning to allow each of us to reflect further on the amendments proposed by Dr Foskey. It was evident, as Dr Foskey indicated this morning, that there was quite a useful debate but, nevertheless, between each of us there was some level of misunderstanding—or there was not a clear understanding of exactly what was sought to be achieved by Dr Foskey’s amendments.
I appreciate the time we have had during the day to reflect on the proposal, take some further advice and, as Mr Stefaniak has done, consult more closely with, in our case, the real estate industry. We received the same advice and, to some extent, the comments I will now make mirror those made by Mr Stefaniak.
I found myself feeling some sympathy for the argument Dr Foskey was advancing this morning. My response this evening, having further considered it, taken further advice and received advice from the department of justice on the relationship between the proposed amendment and the Spent Convictions Act, is that the government’s position has not changed and we will continue to oppose the amendments. I say that with the same caveat that Mr Stefaniak has put on the opposition’s resistance to the amendments—that I believe there are some issues around the operation of the Spent Convictions Act that we might usefully give further consideration to.
I am not committing to an acceptance that the spent convictions legislation should be amended, but I think we can put issues around the particular circumstances that Dr Foskey raised of a young person making a mistake, essentially, rather than being in the grip of a criminal sort of culture or mindset, working assiduously to correct the mistake and then being unable to pursue a career in an area of their choosing as a result of what we might regard as simply an aberration, a genuine mistake. I note that, to that extent, Dr Foskey has made some adjustments which I think attempt to make more firm the position—that we are talking here about minor offences.
Dr Foskey has indicated that she is talking about the circumstance of persons who acknowledges that they made a mistake, that it was an aberration, that they have worked assiduously to repay their debt to society and wish to continue to do that by becoming a fully productive member of the community by pursuing gainful employment in a field that appeals to or attracts them.
I have some sympathy for that, but I also support the need for a very strong message to be sent. I believe that it is important that there be a level of trust and credibility attaching to the activities or conduct of certain callings or professions. I think that is fundamentally important in relation to agents, particularly real estate agents, who, I understand, in the annual survey of community trust in different professions, traditionally battle with politicians for the last spot on the list.
The real estate institute is very aware of that. The real estate institute is very conscious that real estate agents, used car salesmen and politicians are regarded as the least trustworthy people in society. It is vitally important that real estate agents be above that sort of suspicion, that there be genuine trust in real estate agents, as there should be