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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6180

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (10:07 AM) —I do not think the powers of oratory of anybody would necessarily sway the Democrats in relation to this particular amendment, seeing that they have made up their minds and that has been broadcast, but I would not wish to have any senator think that the national criminal code does not provide for strict liability offences. In fact, in section 6 there is a whole regime dealing with strict liability offences—what that actually means—and in section 9 it continues to tell us about mistakes, ignorance et cetera also being part of a defence regime even if it is a strict liability offence. So the fact that it is strict liability does not mean that you do not have any defences available to you. What it does mean is that the burden that is placed on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt the intention in relation to these offences is, I have to say to you, virtually impossible. As a result, whilst huge imprisonment terms make it sound tough and rigorous, the simple fact is that the prosecution will never, in my opinion, be able to prove intention unless the person who is being investigated voluntarily acknowledges and admits that it was his or her intention to do the particular act that is being prohibited.

I happen to think that the people we are dealing with in this situation will be relatively intelligent people—in fact, highly intelligent people—and they will know their rights. They will exercise their right to remain silent—as a result of which this whole regime, quite frankly, is worthless: how the Crown could prove intention when all that they have is silence from the person being investigated is beyond me. I have a funny feeling that some of the drafters of all this know that and there is support at the end of the day by some for human cloning. We had a bit of a discussion last night about whether products of human cloning ought to be allowed in. Whilst that is still out with the umpire, there does seem to me to be a bit of a tendency, as it is now coming forward with the discussions on the bill, that this so-called rigorous regime will not be as rigorous as we were told. I think it is time to put it to the vote.

Question negatived.