Page 4239 - Week 11 - Thursday, 17 Sept 2009

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address the issue of the immunity from criminal liability of people who use an assumed identity in accord with the terms of the bill.

The committee referred to section 8 of the Human Rights Act, which deals with the human right to be treated equally before the law and the common law principle of equality before the law. The government’s understanding of the scope of section 8 of the Human Rights Act is that the law should be made and applied without irrational discrimination. Any distinctions between people before the law should be based on reasonable and objective criteria.

The government has not been able to identify any international human rights case law that engages the right of equality before the law in relation to laws authorising covert investigations. I would welcome any suggestions of any case law that would elaborate on this issue. The immunity from prosecution in the bill is consistent with other rational powers held by some authorities that would be a criminal or civil offence in the absence of the power.

For example, police may use reasonable force to prevent a crime or apprehend a person. A search warrant may authorise police or other authorities to enter a private premises using force. Police may carry handguns in public. This would be a crime but for their authority to do so. Armed forces are authorised to use lethal force within the boundaries of international law. The use of lethal force without lawful justification is a crime. Doctors and pharmacists are allowed to possess drugs that would otherwise be a criminal offence. These are just a few examples to illustrate the point.

The government holds the view that the conditional authority contemplated by the bill is not an arbitrary power allocated to a person on the basis of their office. The bill would not exempt police officers using assumed identities from the rule of law. Officers would be obliged to obey the constraints of the proposed act in the course of their duty to be able to avail themselves of the protection provided by it. Misuse of that power is a criminal offence. Therefore, the government is satisfied that the bill does not discriminate on an irrational basis. It is both reasonable and objective.

I would like to thank the Assembly and the committee for their consideration of the bill which does provide ACT Policing with modern tools to dismantle organised crime. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Dangerous Goods (Road Transport) Bill 2009

Debate resumed from 27 August 2009, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

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