Page 1316 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 5 April 2011

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brought on in a cynical manner because the Attorney-General cannot manage the business of the house.

This bill was introduced only 3½ weeks ago, and non-government members of this place, and more importantly the community generally, including relevant stakeholders, have had only 3½ weeks to scrutinise an extraordinarily complex bill of 178 pages and we have also had only 3½ weeks to scrutinise the accompanying and quite complex explanatory statement of 66 pages. And, further, my office only late last Wednesday received a revised explanatory statement of another 71 pages, which was prepared in response to comments raised by the scrutiny of bills committee. That is why the Canberra Liberals are opposing this bill today.

No doubt the government, with the support of the Greens, will allow this bill to pass, so we state now that if this bill does not do what it sets out to do and if stakeholders and, more importantly, the courts identify issues of concern, particularly as they might relate to the application in the context of the nuances of this bill as it stands in the ACT, we will hold this Attorney-General, the ACT Labor government and its Green coalition partners to account for those problems. If this bill in any way fails in its intent, it will be on the heads of those who are sitting on the other side of the chamber.

The purpose of this bill is to implement a model uniform evidence law into the territory and this is the first tranche of three bills that, together, will create our own law of evidence in the ACT, obviating the need for us to continue to rely on commonwealth law. This is why we believe that there needs to be more time and attention given to this and we need to allow the community to give more time and attention to it, because evidence bills and evidence legislation are extraordinarily complex and they are what innocent people use to prevent themselves from being sent to jail and the mechanism whereby guilty people are appropriately punished. This is why we need to get it right.

This bill will commence on the first of either written notice of the Attorney-General, or 12 months after notification so as to give time for the two further amending bills to be developed and passed. I will touch on the detail of that shortly. That shows that there is no urgency to pass this bill today. I note that the government has commenced the drafting of these further two bills, and I have been told that it will engage in a process of consultation with stakeholders as soon as the draft of the bills is complete. The government intends, I have been told, to introduce these two additional bills in June, so once again the government has embarked on a project with a tight time frame, especially for the resource-stretched stakeholders who have such an important role to play in ensuring that the evidence legislation in the ACT is tight and functional.

The law that this bill introduces in the ACT will apply to all proceedings in all courts. There are some specific requirements of and discretions available to the courts in relation to sentencing proceedings. The bill contains no sections 25 or 105 as they applied previously to the ACT under the commonwealth law. These sections relate to the right of a defendant to make an unsworn statement. That right no longer exists under the Australian criminal law, so it has been repealed from the model legislation.

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