Page 543 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 10 February 2009

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Crimes (Bill Posting) Amendment Bill 2008

Debate resumed from 11 December 2008, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR COE (Ginninderra) (5.41): I rise to speak to the Crimes (Bill Posting) Amendment Bill 2008. There is no doubt we need to do something about ugly and unsightly bill posting. This sort of bill posting can destroy the look of the city. On heritage buildings like the Sydney and Melbourne buildings, it is unacceptable that each pillar should be covered with posters that cost the taxpayer a significant amount in cleaning up and restoring the building. The opposition believes that the government can work with business and community organisations to clean up bill posting in the city.

However, this bill should not pass the Assembly in its current form. It is poorly drafted and vague legislation that will do nothing to enforce laws that are already on the statute book.

This bill, it seems, is more about the Chief Minister’s vanity than the city of Canberra or bill posting. The Chief Minister was rightly criticised during the campaign for the deteriorating state of the city. It is natural then, after declaring himself the mayor of Canberra, that he should come into this place in a blaze of glory with a new item for the Crimes Act to eliminate the evil menace of bill posting, as he put it. The opposition does not support bad legislation that is more about the gratification of the Chief Minister’s ego than in focusing on core urban services for the people of Canberra.

The bill, as it stands, will create a new crime of bill posting without consent on public and private property as a strict liability offence and a new duty on event organisers to ensure their events are cleanly promoted and that event organisers will be liable for a penalty if they recklessly disregard ensuring their billposters do so cleanly. There are a number of aspects of the bill that are of particular concern to the opposition, including the strict liability nature of the new offence, the unfair impact on individuals, charities, small businesses and freedom of speech, and the lack of consultation before the introduction of this bill to the Assembly. The imposition of a strict liability offence is something we must do with care. Strict liability offences of course do not require that there is a fault element to the offence.

As has been observed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety, the explanatory statement to the bill does not adequately justify why in this case the prosecution should not be concerned with the moral blameworthiness of a defendant. Before this matter is addressed, the opposition cannot support the bill as it stands.

In an extraordinary admission, the explanatory statement accompanying the bill talks about the applicability of provisions to community notices and in relation to lost pet notices. It says a person affixing such notices on property without consent could still be prosecuted under section 119 or 120 of the act. The bill would also technically make it a crime for chalk hopscotch drawings to appear on paths and for small groups such as Scouts to paint stencilled numbers on guttering outside residential properties.

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