Page 3934 - Week 12 - Thursday, 20 October 2005

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I would have thought that if there were a mood or a desire within the Assembly to consider the issue of strict liability offences in the broad way in which Dr Foskey proposes or wishes, then such a matter should be open to reference to the Assembly Standing Committee on Legal Affairs. I am not suggesting I would be opposed or averse to that.

I must say that it is an issue—not that this is necessarily relevant—which continues to cause some frustration, certainly at officer level, that we are now essentially just turning out by rote the government’s response to criticisms within scrutiny of bills reports about the use of strict liability offences. There is something of an impasse and this has been the case traditionally over years. Maybe we have reached a point where there is some merit to Dr Foskey’s desire just to air this issue and allow us all to understand what our respective positions are, and perhaps not have continually the same debate around the application of strict liability. However, I believe it is inappropriate in this instance to refer the matter to a committee.

I am more than happy to work with Dr Foskey and with the Assembly—I do not know whether we need a formal inquiry—around a process to better air this issue of strict liability and perhaps bring it to a head, as Dr Foskey proposes. Dr Foskey’s proposal really is, “Look, let’s bring this issue of strict liability to a head in this place. Let’s thrash it out and let’s see if we can’t agree.” I am happy to do that, but I just do not think it should involve the reference of a harmonisation bill that deals with 38 different pieces of legislation as the mechanism. I would much prefer another reference to the Assembly Standing Committee on Legal Affairs.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (12.07): Mr Speaker, as I have indicated, the opposition will support Dr Foskey’s request for this bill to go to a committee simply so that the issue can be aired. I have some sympathy with what the attorney had to say in relation to the issue. I think I heard him say that in future the government would be taking some additional steps to alleviate a couple of concerns raised by the committee, and that is good. However, the government is opposed to this bill going to the committee and therefore the motion will not be agreed to.

Lots of people in the Assembly are vexed by this issue and it is certainly one that crops up regularly in the scrutiny committee. I think there certainly is merit in having some form of inquiry, some further discussions, in relation to the issues around strict liability. So I was heartened to hear the attorney make those comments.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.09), in reply: It is always very encouraging to see that debate can be progressed in this house. Whilst I am, of course, sorry that the government will not agree to my motion, I am pleased that some of the concerns that are behind it have been taken on board. Although sending this bill to the legal affairs committee would have resulted in a somewhat narrower inquiry than would perhaps be the case with the inquiry we now anticipate we are going to have, I want to make the point that the bill before us is part of the problem. It indicates that there is a larger problem.

I just want to reiterate that strict liability offences are being implemented more often and seemingly on an ad hoc basis in this Assembly. This seems to be the case because we do not have guidelines on what is fair, just and compatible with human rights. It is time that

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