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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 4 August 2015) . . Page.. 2198 ..

offensive behaviour and what constitutes offensive behaviour are examples of offences in the statute book which can be similarly characterised to the provision proposed in this bill this morning.

It is about recognising that we are, nevertheless, trying to provide some guidance on the range of matters that could be relevant to determining whether supply is consistent with the responsible supervision of a child or a young person. It is a construction that is common with the broadly understood industry acceptance about the responsible service of alcohol. Clearly it would be irresponsible of somebody to continue to ply a minor with alcohol to the extent that they were completely intoxicated. However, it would be responsible to supervise a young person if they had a glass of alcohol at a function or event under adult supervision. Clearly it would irresponsible if the adult purported to be supervising the young person was themselves very badly intoxicated.

These are the types of matters that will come into play. But the bottom line is that it is not unusual for police discretion to be exercised in deciding whether to charge particular offences. For some offences, the capacity for police to exercise discretion is important as it is not possible in the construction of the offence to encompass all conduct that is intended to be made criminal. Discretion is also important to ensure that laws are applied fairly and do not have harsh or intolerable results. It is common practice for ACT Policing—as it is for any other police service—to maintain a level of discretion about whether to charge people for a significant number of offences in this jurisdiction and others.

Ultimately, it is worth observing that it is unlikely that legislation can ever be drafted with such precision and clarity that interpretation would not be required. Unless we are going to have a very prescriptive list, it is always going to be the case that some level of interpretation and discretion will need to be exercised by our police and our courts. Our courts operate within the confines of the rule of law, and it is open to the legislature, based upon judicial interpretation, to further codify the operation of a provision into the future if that is deemed necessary.

This is not overreach on the part of the executive in the construction of this offence. We are simply saying that currently in the ACT there is no offence that stops anyone over the age of 18 purchasing alcohol and then supplying it to a person under the age of 18 for their consumption. It is not an offence. This is a loophole that all stakeholders have recognised needs to be closed, and we are closing it. But we are closing it in a way that recognises that adults—that is, parents or guardians of a person under the age of 18—still have the discretion to allow that young person to consume alcohol as long as it is done responsibly and as long as it is done under their supervision or with their permission.

That is a sensible provision that recognises that families seek to introduce young people to alcohol in a supervised environment, and that is a good thing. It is far better that young people are introduced to alcohol and its impacts and effects in that supervised, responsible adult environment than being left to explore that in an unsupervised environment or with other adults who clearly do not have their best interests at heart.

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