Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 September 2005) . . Page.. 3339 ..
government is going in relation to strict liability offences is wrong. I have stood in this place in relation to two or three pieces of legislation this year, the stock bill and a couple of other pieces of environment legislation, and pointed out the problems that arise here.
There are problems which have been addressed a number of times by the scrutiny of bills committee. I am pleased to say that we have had something of a conversion, not quite at the eleventh hour. Recently, the Chief Minister wrote to members and said that he had considered this matter and that he would be introducing some amendments that, quite frankly, are things for which I have been calling in this place for six or eight months. There are some good models of strict liability offences. I have pointed those out to the Chief Minister. I think that probably the best model is in the Pest Plants and Animals Act, which clarifies the situation.
Yes, someone can commit a strict liability offence, but the person commits the offence if the person in the conduct of their business does something wrong. If I have an important tree, an important tree’s mate or a big tree on my block and I hire a horticulturalist and he does something wrong to the tree, he may be subject to a strict liability offence because he should know better. That is the way things should work in this place. I hope that the volte-face from the Chief Minister is a sign of things to come. I hope that this means that we have drawn a line in the sand and we will not see more stupid strict liability offences in legislation.
They are stupid, they are bad, they are wrong, they treat people unjustly, and I think that it is important that someone like the Chief Minister, who spends so much time talking about his role as a civil libertarian, should understand what this legislation does and should put a stop to that. He should be telling his officials, “I do not want to see another provision like this in a bill.” I think we have got to the stage where a line has been drawn in the sand. I congratulate the Chief Minister for that, and I thank him.
There is one other set of provisions in this bill that also must be looked at. The scrutiny of bills committee has, on a number of occasions, drawn attention to the increasing propensity of this government to have provisions that allow you to create offences, usually offences with small penalties, in subordinate legislation. This, again, is bad law, and there will be amendments moved by me today to take them out of this piece of legislation.
There are, as I said at the outset, a couple of improvements in this bill over the interim scheme. The whole problem is that the whole notion of tree protection has been muddled in the ACT. What was originally proposed was to protect important, significant trees, probably about 20,000, and probably not even the important trees’ mates. What has happened over time is that some people, with their enthusiasm and their capacity to get in the way of other people, have wanted to protect every tree, irrespective of who owns it and who has responsibility for maintaining it, and impinge upon people’s rights to property. This is bad law. It is underpinned by woolly thinking and bad thinking. There will be some amendments to make this bill better, because it impacts so much on people’s lives, but the Liberal opposition will be opposing this legislation. It should be consigned to the bin and the government should go back and start again.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.45): Our consultation on this bill has revealed a number of problems. On some of them we share concerns with Mrs Dunne, but perhaps we have