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Thursday, 29 March 2001
Page: 26075


Mr KERR (10:25 AM) —The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration has indicated the nature of the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Application of Criminal Code) Bill 2001. This legislation is parallelled by similar packages which are being brought through the parliament in respect of all portfolio areas. By the time this process has been completed, the list of speeches on this subject is bound to become more than slightly boring. I will indicate simply that I commend the government for continuing with a process of reform. This process of seeking to ensure that the Commonwealth criminal law framework is consistent across all portfolios and operating in a way which is more coherent and more transparent to the community is an important one.

The one area where the opposition has repeatedly called on the government to place greater effort has been to draw the states into this process of reform, because the initiative was intended to commence a process whereby not only would Commonwealth law be codified in a way which is more accessible and more transparent, but the principles of criminal law responsibility across the whole nation would be brought into coherent line. That process has died. There is little effort being put into energising it. It needs the concerted attention of both the Attorney-General and the Minister for Justice and Customs, and I would think also the Prime Minister, if this process is to get back on track. It is an important process, one which the government continues to subscribe to in principle, but it will not get anywhere unless more than the current effort is devoted to that task. It should not be impossible now. Whilst this government no longer shares the political colour of a number of state governments, there is no real reason why partisanship should cloud this task. In fact, it should be easier in some ways, given the political similarities across some of the state jurisdictions now, to find common ground, particularly as some of the more truculent of governments that might have stood out—in Queensland and Western Australia—have been replaced by administrations which are likely to be more willing to consider the national interest than the previous administrations. With those few remarks, I commend the legislation to the Main Committee.