Page 2863 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 24 June 2009

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The advice I have received from my department, which is outlined in this report, is that any legislative regime to address serious and organised crime with a similar effect to the laws enacted in New South Wales and South Australia engages fundamentally a number of human rights. Any law that engages human rights must be carefully constructed and pay close attention to the balancing of competing rights and policy considerations.

This is reinforced by section 28 of the Human Rights Act, which deals with when limitations may be placed on human rights. This section gives effect to the well-recognised principle in international human rights law of proportionality.

I make this brief point on limitations because the detractors of the Human Rights Act would have us believe that all human rights are absolute and serve only to benefit the criminals. They claim that human rights are nothing other than a rogues’ charter which ties the hands of authorities and endangers the safety of the community.

It is the ACT’s experience, as well as that of other jurisdictions which have human rights legislation, that the protection and observance of human rights enhance community safety rather than detracting from it. The protection of human rights and community safety are two concepts that can and do co-exist quite happily. Indeed, a community which breeds contempt and disrespect for human rights is not a safe community at all.

Finally, I would like to draw the Assembly’s attention to part 6 of the government report, which outlines a range of possible legislative announcements that could further strengthen the ACT’s stance against serious organised crime groups and their activities. The government will be considering these proposals and I would ask each member of the Assembly, now armed with the facts, to also consider what is in the best interests of the territory in addressing this complex issue.

In conclusion, I would like to quote from Justice Brandeis in 1928. Brandeis was a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He said something which I think is most important and relevant to this matter:

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent … The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.

This is an important quote to bear in mind as we approach this crucial but complex issue.

Debate (on motion by Mr Hanson) adjourned to the next sitting

Schools—performance monitoring

Debate resumed.

MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (3.07), in reply: In closing the debate, I would like to thank those who spoke on this motion this morning and to thank Mr Barr and his colleagues for their support on this motion.

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