Page 4472 - Week 14 - Thursday, 28 November 2013
According to that table, the only jurisdictions with whose laws this amendment creates any level of consistency are the Northern Territory, where notices can be given for possession up to 50 grams, and South Australia, where the threshold is 100 grams. Neither New South Wales nor Victoria have a cannabis infringement notice scheme, merely allowing police to caution offenders for possession of up to 15 grams in New South Wales or 50 grams in Victoria. So in New South Wales, for possession of amounts above 15 grams, criminal charges apply.
Currently, in the ACT, criminal charges apply for quantities over 25 grams. Under this bill criminal charges will apply only for quantities over 50 grams. A simple fine will apply where a lesser quantity is involved. Therefore, in New South Wales, the ACT’s nearest neighbour, the law is stricter than this bill contemplates for the ACT. There is potential, therefore, for an increase in the drug trade in the ACT, particularly with populated urban areas close to our border.
The bill also amends the Firearms Act 1996 to require the registration of firearm frames and receivers on the basis that they can be used to manufacture complete weapons. The comparative table I was given indicates that all jurisdictions except Tasmania make similar provisions. There is an amnesty of three months to allow holders of frames and receivers to register them or dispose of them.
Finally, let me make a general observation about this bill. On many occasions before, we on this side of the house have remarked that omnibus bills should be used to make minor, technical or non-controversial amendments. While the amendments contemplated in this bill are non-controversial—other than perhaps the drugs element—they are certainly not minor and they are certainly not technical in nature. They do introduce some significant policy shifts, including the retrospective nature of certain sex offences. Once again, I call on the government, and particularly the Attorney-General, to give very careful consideration to these matters when preparing bills for debate in this place in future.
Legislative change that involves a shift in policy or covers new ground should be brought forward in the form of stand-alone bills. There is too much risk that omnibus bills like the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill that we are debating today will create problems that could have serious consequences for the people that engage with the laws when bills are introduced in this way. I accept that it may be administratively efficient, but if we get it wrong, the effect potentially could be devastating on our community.
In closing, I would like to thank the attorney’s office for the briefing that they provided and the cooperative manner in which we have dealt with a number of issues, including some amendments which were to be proposed and which we will deal with at another stage, and indicate that we will be supporting this legislation.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (5.27): This is an omnibus bill that makes amendments in several areas of criminal justice policy. The changes are relatively minor and they will assist with the effective administration of criminal justice in the territory. I will not go through every aspect of the bill but I will make some comments on some of the specific changes.