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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6173

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:35 AM) — Senators have asked questions about the issue of strict liability offences in relation to prohibited practices. Senator Abetz's amendment proposes to introduce strict liability in relation to each of the prohibited practices. Strict liability offences are entirely inappropriate for offences that carry penalties of 10 to 15 years imprisonment. The Criminal Law Division of the Attorney-General's Department has a general rule that any offences that carry a penalty of more than 50 penalty units—that is, $550—should not be strict liability offences.

This general rule is based on the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee standing order No. 24, which draws attention to provisions where strict liability is imposed and, in particular, ensures that the provisions do not unduly trespass on personal rights and liberties. On the basis of this standing order—and I would not want to pre-empt what the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee would say— it is likely that the Scrutiny of Bills Committee would be extremely concerned to see offences in legislation that are strict liability offences which carry a penalty of 10 to 15 years imprisonment. I have been advised that this is entirely unprecedented in Commonwealth legislation and, therefore, we will be opposing Senator Abetz's amendment. I can go into that in more detail if required.