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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6076

Senator RICE (Victoria) (17:39): The Greens also will not be supporting Senator Leyonhjelm's amendments. In fact, with regard to the change from strict liability I think that Senator Leyonhjelm is rather misguided if he feels that he needs to do that in order to protect people who intend to do no harm. He only needs to read the BillsDigest that states:

In a criminal law offence the proof of fault is usually a basic requirement. However, offences of strict liability remove the fault (mental) element that would otherwise apply, but the offence will not criminalise honest errors and a person cannot be held liable if he, or she, had an honest and reasonable belief that they were complying with relevant obligations.

Like Senator Leyonhjelm, we don't want to see the punishment of reasonable and honest mistakes, or people who intended no harm, or weren't being reckless, and this will not happen. You don't need to remove strict liability in order for that to happen. But, in contrast, if Senator Leyonhjelm's amendments were adopted then there is a big risk that there would be the unintended consequence of people who were intentionally contravening or disregarding our import laws potentially getting through. His amendments appear to downgrade the illegal importation of potentially high-risk foodstuffs by changing it from a strict liability charge to a civil penalty one. I'm not sure what evidence he has that this wouldn't lead to a mass evasion of our imported food inspection scheme, as it seems to us that the risks of doing this are, indeed, very high.