Page 196 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 13 February 2008

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I also want to stress today that people should have responsibility for their own actions. There is a significant amount of regulation imposed on licensed venues. This is appropriate, but we must also recognise that individuals are ultimately responsible for the way they behave when they are in public. The wording of the last point of Mr Seselja’s motion somewhat misses the point. It refers to “problems at Canberra nightclubs”. I would contend that the issue that we are dealing with is the behaviour of individuals after they have consumed alcohol, or misused alchol, and sometimes drugs, in public situations. This discussion should be about minimising violent incidents that do occur and ensuring that they are isolated and dealt with quickly and efficiently.

It is worth noting that the level of violence, assaults and arrests in Civic, Manuka and Kingston are in fact trending downwards. Again, we are not dealing with a crisis and, as such, off-the-cuff responses are not helpful at all. Something that I believe would assist in reducing the amount of violent incidents even further is identifying whether there is a small group of people engaging in violent behaviour repeatedly or whether the problem is more widespread and common. I suspect that the former is the case. The vast majority of people are able to enjoy a night out, including consuming alcohol, without seeking to start fights. If my suspicion is correct—and others in the hospitality section tell me this—then we need to consider how to handle repeat offenders.

Isolated incidents of violence may be inevitable but people who constantly go out on the town with a view to fighting and causing others harm should not be tolerated. There need to be stiff penalties. Whilst I am not preoccupied with law and order issues, there seems to be strong evidence that we need deterrent sentencing for people who are repeat offenders. I reiterate my earlier point: people must take responsibility for the way they behave in public and alcohol is not an excuse for antisocial behaviour.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about on-the-spot fines. I was pleased to see the minister introduce the Crimes Amendment Bill 2008 yesterday. I will be reviewing this bill closely but support the idea in principle. I also welcome the comments by the Chief Police Officer yesterday and I believe that the Assembly should consider extending yesterday’s proposal to a broader range of offences.

For example, I am aware that, in New South Wales, police have the power to issue on-the-spot fines to individuals when they refuse to leave premises after they have been requested to do so. This could strengthen the ACT police “move on” powers and avoid having people milling around the doors of venues when they are not welcome. The issuing of on-the-spot fines will not prevent all incidents of violence from occurring but they would put the onus on individuals, act as a deterrent to antisocial behaviour and assist authorities in getting a better record of those who are repeat offenders.

In light of the wording of Mr Seselja’s motion, I will take some time to consider other outcomes of his roundtable discussions. Of course, one of the less sensible suggestions to come from the opposition is for mounted police and dog squads to patrol nightspot areas. This response is, unfortunately, typical of the overreaction that I have referred to and that we are dealing with. You would then wonder whether, in addition, we need a riot squad on standby, just in case. Some of the other suggestions

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