Page 3755 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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Initially, when the government referred this bill to a committee—luckily it is a committee of which I am a member, the legal affairs committee—I was a little concerned. But now, having been through that process, I have to say that that process was a really good process. We ran an exhaustive inquiry. We did not go to Tasmania—we went to Tasmania for the police powers bill inquiry—but we went to Melbourne and spoke to Brian Walters, who is the barrister who wrote the book Slapping on the Writs. I gave everybody here a copy of it some years ago. It included, as draft legislation, the legislation that we first tabled in the Assembly.

I have got to say that we have come a really long way since then. In retrospect, that bit of legislation, in fact, looks somewhat naive. This bill, which will be amended by the government—and I will talk to those amendments shortly—is a much more robust piece of legislation. That is because people from the Wilderness Society had dialogue with solicitors and lawyers who came before our inquiry. Everyone had the desire to make this a better bit of legislation.

As is recognised, we have worked long and hard on this bill. The committee has liaised with the Attorney-General’s office for a couple of years. It was only yesterday that it looked as though there was any chance of it being successful. We were, of course, very sad to see that due to our position on the roster for private members’ day this bill might not see the light of day in this Assembly. All in all, I know the Liberals are not very happy with what happened today, but I have to say that it is actually a good outcome for the ACT and, naturally, as a Green, I am very happy about that.

I do not want to go over old ground. I have certainly put the case for this legislation a number of times. I want to commend the report of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs. I think that the report is actually a seminal document. It should have wide circulation. Certainly it will take its place in the history of the evolution of democratic rights in Australia. I think it is the sequel to Slapping on the Writs by Brian Walters, the book that started off the process.

I commend the secretary, Robina Jaffray. The quality of the report has most to do with Robina. We, as a committee, were blessed to have her because she had a great deal of enthusiasm for the topic as well. It is the kind of thing that maybe a committee secretary dreams of. It is something where you can actually tread on new ground and advance the law in Australia.

I commend Mr Stefaniak, who I could see was really interested in the bill. I know that he enjoyed our encounter with Mr Brian Walters. Zed Seselja, when he came in, after a little bit of work was able to hit the ground running on this bill. He has always supported it, and that is good. We have got tripartisan support for this bill. I am not sure about Mr Mulcahy. We will see later. I also want to thank Karin MacDonald because she has also had a huge input.

It was a learning experience for us all and it is certainly an example of what can happen in this place if people put aside their partisan political positions and look at problems that come before us in a constructive and cooperative manner. The truth is that I actually think we do when there is not some sort of political gain to be made in a very quick, knee-jerk fashion. But often, when it really matters, we do do that, and committees are where that most frequently happens.

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