Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 27 August 2008) . . Page.. 3796 ..
government in seeking to change that. Whilst the act protects public participation and it discourages certain civil proceedings that a reasonable person would consider were interfering with engaging in public participation, it does not actively and legally encourage public participation which is probably a bit of a nonsense. So that seems to be sensible.
The opposition is comfortable with most of these amendments. However, we will certainly keep a watching brief on how this legislation pans out. It may not be earth shattering; it may not lead to a lot of cases. I am pleased to see a review period. It is a fair way out. In some other areas of the law we have had review periods after 12 or 24 months, and that might be more appropriate. I suppose that, in something like this, where we have yet to see any such cases in the ACT, a review after three years and certainly before five years is probably not unreasonable in the circumstances.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (4.50): I have looked at the government’s amendments to this bill, and they seem to be even more obstructive of legitimate action to protect private property rights, and I do not support them for that reason. Dr Foskey’s bill contains a requirement that it can only be used where there is no reasonable expectation that the proceeding will succeed—in other words, the bill seeks to supplement the existing law on frivolous law suits. The government’s amendments to the bill—I call them amendments, but really they constitute a complete redraft of the bill—remove any requirement to demonstrate the suit in questions without merit—in other words, the government would allow the suppression of legitimate actions in court which have merit and which seek to protect legitimate rights against, for example, trespass of property.
It is worth reflecting on that very issue, because section 7 (2) of the bill recognises several situations in which actions will not be recognised as legitimate public participation under the bill. While trespass on a private residence is recognised as illegitimate, it is highly revealing to note that trespass to private property in general is not recognised as an exception to legitimate public participation—in other words, you cannot barge into someone’s home and then claim it is public participation, but you can feel free to barge into the offices or other property of a private company and then claim that it is public participation deserving protection.
This does not appear to be a mistake in omission. After all, the fact that trespasses against private residences is given as an exclusion means that the Greens have obviously turned their minds to the issue of trespass to property. It is clear then that they have intentionally defined public participation to include trespasses to private property, so long as this is not a residence. This aspect of the bill illustrates the complete and utter disregard displayed by the Greens and the professional protesters that make up their core support in relation to private property rights.
In terms of the amendments, as I have indicated, I do not think that the government’s amendments give me any more comfort; they do not provide that level of protection that I believe is important. Mr Stefaniak has circled around the issue. In fact, I am quite amazed that the Liberals are supporting this. When I first saw that report back in May 2007 and saw the opposition leader’s name all over it, I came to the conclusion that maybe he had not had time to read it, because it seems so philosophically out of character for the Liberals. It seems even more philosophically out of character for