Page 279 - Week 01 - Thursday, 11 December 2008

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MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (10.28): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This bill amends the Crimes Act 1900 to address the problem of illegal bill posting. It works in two ways. First, this bill extends the operation of the strict liability offence of “defacing property” found in section 120 of the act to include bill posting. As a result of that amendment “on-the-spot” fines of $200 can be issued by the police or the city rangers to people caught bill posting.

The government is conscious of the potential human rights implications of this aspect of the bill, particularly the possibility that the right to freedom of expression is being curtailed. However, I consider that the extension of section 120 of the act, as proposed by this bill, is proportional to the problem being addressed and thus does not infringe individuals’ human rights.

First, the provision does not provide for a blanket ban on all bill posting. The government has provided locations, such as public noticeboards and information pillars, where advertisements, posters and placards can be affixed without fear of prosecution. I have also asked TAMS to look at options to increase the amount of public space available for bill posting.

Almost all of the posters which are currently illegally affixed are advertisements for events or entertainment venues and are thus commercial in nature. Bill posting is really a form of advertising, where the business taking the commercial benefit from the advertisement shifts the costs from themselves and passes them on to private property owners or the government without recompense.

Alternative means of expression available are more effective at letting interested parties know about events and venues, such as electronic social networking, SMS phone messaging or internet advertising; all of which are cheap and can now be accessed by mobile telephone.

In addition to the cost borne by innocent property owners or the government, the removal of posters and placards can cause damage to property—and this is of particular concern in relation to heritage-listed properties such as the Melbourne Building, which are frequently the target of illegal bill posting. Further, the glues used to affix placards, when indiscriminately painted onto surfaces, or splashed onto the ground, quickly become discoloured with dirt and, in the case of starch-based adhesives, attract vermin. For these reasons I consider this aspect of the bill is appropriate.

The second aspect of this bill is the creation of a new offence which focuses on the actions of event organisers and promoters. The bill establishes a duty on event organisers to take reasonable precautions to ensure that their event is promoted without illegally affixing bills to places and buildings. If an organiser recklessly fails

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