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Wednesday, 8 August 2001
Page: 29381


Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) (10:05 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The Health and Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Application of Criminal Code) Bill 2001 advances the government's program to harmonise offence-creating and related provisions in Commonwealth legislation with the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code will codify the most serious offences against Commonwealth law and establish a cohesive set of general principles of criminal responsibility.

The purpose of this bill is to apply the Criminal Code to all offence-creating and related provisions in acts falling within the Health and Aged Care portfolio, and to make all necessary amendments to these provisions to ensure compliance and consistency with the Criminal Code's general principles. While the majority of offences in legislation in the Health and Aged Care portfolio will operate as they always have, without amendment, there are some that will require adjustment.

Amongst the most significant amendments is the express application of strict liability to some offence-creating provisions. Under the Criminal Code an offence must specifically identify strict liability, or the prosecution will be required to prove fault in relation to each element of the offence.

This is necessary to ensure that the strict liability nature of some provisions is not lost in the transition to the application of the Criminal Code's general principles. If relevant offences are not adjusted in this manner, many will become more difficult for the prosecution to prove, therefore reducing the protection which was originally intended by the parliament to be provided by the offence.

The bill will similarly improve the efficient and fair prosecution of offences by clarifying the physical elements of offences, amending inappropriate fault elements and clarifying provisions where the defendant will bear a burden of proof. Several provisions in portfolio legislation require a defendant to bear an onus of proof which is unnecessarily difficult and inconsistent with the statutory preference in the Criminal Code. The opportunity has been taken in this bill to amend these provisions so that where the defendant must bear a burden of proof the defendant will need to point to evidence that suggests a reasonable possibility rather than prove a matter beyond reasonable doubt.

This harmonisation of offence-creating and related offences in health and aged care legislation with the Criminal Code is an important step in the government's program of legislative reform that will achieve greater consistency in Commonwealth criminal law.

I commend the bill to the House and I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Horne) adjourned.