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Thursday, 30 November 2000
Page: 23139

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) (12:59 PM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill 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 Veterans' Affairs 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 Veterans' Affairs 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 or absolute liability to some offence-creating provisions. Under the criminal code an offence must specifically identify strict liability or absolute liability, as the case may be, 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 or absolute 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, and therefore reduce 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 and amending inappropriate fault elements.

This harmonisation of offence-creating and related offences in Veterans' Affairs legislation with the criminal code is an important step in the government's program of legislative reform that will achieve greater consistency and cohesion in Commonwealth criminal law.

I present a copy of the explanatory memorandum to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Martin Ferguson) adjourned.