Additional comments by the Australian Democrats
Democrats share many of the concerns raised by the Law Council, in particular
the operation of the presumptions and absolute liability that ‘effectively
shifts the burden from proving guilt to establishing innocence.’ This
represents a marked departure from current practice and dramatically undermines
the presumption of innocence as set out in article 14(2) of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Democrats also note we are sympathetic to many of the concerns raised by the
Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform (FFDLR), in particular, concerns
relating to clause 308.1 of the Bill. FFDLR contends that this provision is
aimed only at drug users and creates a serious offence out of the possession of
even ‘small quantities of drugs.’ In highlighting this issue, the Democrats
note that the MCOCC’s 1998 report on Serious Drug Offences did not contain a
simple possession offence.
while there are provisions for the continued operation of State and Territory
laws, in proposed sections 308.1 and 300.4, there appears to be no guarantee
that an individual who commits an offence in a jurisdiction that allows for
such an offence to be expiated on payment of a fine will not be proceeded
against under Commonwealth law.
Democrats agree with the evidence as presented, however, we reserve our
judgement on the Bill contingent with the committee's recommendation and the
resolution of the matters outlined above.
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja
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