Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 7 April 2005) . . Page.. 1559 ..
reports in this place for a while and, as time goes by, taking increasing interest in what scrutiny of bills committees say. There has been a constant theme from scrutiny of bills about strict liability offences.
There is a range of strict liability offences in these two pieces of legislation—probably 30 in all. I propose, by amendment today, to delete some of those because I think they are inappropriate and needlessly draconian, especially in relation to attempts to stop the spread of exotic diseases like BSE or foot and mouth disease.
The fact is that some farm worker might inadvertently do something that contravenes a regulation that he probably does not know the existence of. Then you get slapped with a fine of 10, 20, 30 or 50 penalty units. That fine is not going to stop the spread of BSE or foot and mouth disease. If somebody does something unlawful or really stupid, of course, after we have sorted out the problem of the spread of foot and mouth disease, by all means take them to court but at least work out whether they intended to commit a crime before we fine them. That is my concern.
Another issue of concern has been raised about both bills by the scrutiny of bills committee. I will read from page 9 of the scrutiny report. It says that the committee notes that under subclause 90 (3) of the Animal Diseases Bill a regulation under the act may create offences and maximum penalties for those offences. That maximum penalty is only 10 penalty units; it is not very much. The scrutiny report goes on to say:
Given the significance of the power to create an offence, the Committee draws to the attention of the Assembly the question whether it is appropriate for a law of this kind to be made by regulation.
I am carrying out the will of the scrutiny of bills committee by drawing that to the attention of the Assembly. I do not propose to do anything about it on this occasion but I flag that it has long been the stated policy of the Canberra Liberals that we would not create offences in subordinate legislation.
I am not sure that we have always been absolutely squeaky clean in this but when it is drawn to my attention in such a blatant way, it is something that I will be much more vigilant about in future. While these are only small offences and small penalties, it is a matter of concern that we make regulations in this place so that we can hand on the power to create offences to someone in a bureaucracy. I think this is a bad turn of law and that we should be very careful about it.
In summary, the Liberal opposition supports the bill in principle. We would prefer that it were debated to the in principle stage today and adjourned so that we could have a better conversation with stakeholders. I think we should spell that stake with an a-k-e not an e-a-k! The most important thing is: this is good legislation; it is important legislation. I would like to make it better and I would hope the Assembly would agree to an adjournment so that we can make it better.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.05): After listening to Mrs Dunne, I am inclined to agree with her proposal that we discuss this bill in principle today and adjourn the detail stage to probably the next sitting week. I was already a little concerned that these bills are being dealt with so quickly after being tabled—not a practice that I would encourage—