Thursday 22 September 2016
Hansard of the Legislative Council

BILL 2016 (No. 48)



Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I am pretty much of the same mind.  Thank you very much to the officers who came to brief us.  That was good knowledge of the way this legislation has unfolded, in consultation with other states, and then mirroring what is occurring in other states to strengthen the legislation in Tasmania.  I agree with that.  I believe we all would support these evolving situations with legislation, making it sharper, stronger, better, and improving the work of police officers and agree to do that.  However, there are some questions that I raised during the briefing, and I will pursue those when we get into the Committee stage, whether today or after an adjournment.  There are some areas that I will pursue.

My main concern was when we got, at the briefing, to proposed sections 45B and 45C, the power to enter premises without a warrant.  On hearing that explanation, alarm bells rang for me.  I believe that is excessive.  In the case of proposed section 45B, it is not as though any person is going to be in danger; it is not suggested that there are firearms or drugs.  Also, what personal details could be so important that a police officer would need the power for periphery entry?  That is a question I would ask of section 45B.  It states a police officer must communicate, or attempt to communicate to the offender, the police officer's right to enter the premises unless it would be likely to endanger any person.  How could verifying personal details endanger any person?  An overarching concern I have is that the power given by this section could be used to harass an offender.

The officer could enter the premises on several days in a short space of time because they will have the power with the approval of this legislation.  The officer should have a warrant to enter, issued by a magistrate preferably.  A justice of the peace would be a rubber stamp.  If the police come and say they want to do this, it would be a tick off.  I would prefer a magistrate to assess the need before actually signing the warrant to give some protection against harassment.  People do need to be watched closely, but the power worries me.

Section 45C is in a different category.  Here the police officer has to reasonably suspect an offender is committing an offence, for example, having a child in the house.  This could justify periphery entry.  If the offender is using a device to send photos, that may give rise to a need for periphery entry.  If a person or other person, or a child is in danger of a predatory act, periphery entry may be necessary.  If it is only to search for material, there is no need for periphery entry.  A warrant should be sought.  These two sections could sit well in a dictatorship rather than in a democracy. 

I have a concern about some areas and the member for Windermere is going to appreciate the opportunity to respond to my closing statement.

We have to be guarded in respect of the powers issued through legislation to make sure it does not give rise to behaviours that may not appreciate us being collateral damage or an unintended consequence of legislation we might approve.  I support the police in their work and give the strength they need with legislation, but we must be guarded about the finer detail.  I would support an adjournment, but I do not mind if it goes into the Committee stage.