Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024

Published on: June 2024

Record: HANSARD-1323879322-141677

Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024

Second Reading Debate

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT (Prospect) (15:45:45):

I am almost finished breaking down the amendments in the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. Item [2] of schedule 2 to the bill introduces a new offence in new section 11F (1A) of the Summary Offences Act 1988 to prohibit the sale of a knife to a child who is 16 or 17 years old without a reasonable excuse. Interpreting that offence, item [4] provides that a reasonable excuse includes the requirement for the knife for the lawful pursuit of the child's occupation, training or TAFE education, such as for apprentices, butchers, chefs and others in culinary training.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR] has identified an alarming trend in the rates of violent knife crimes in New South Wales. Young people are significantly over-represented in the figures. BOCSAR executive director Jackie Fitzgerald highlighted a stark figure: Young people are six times more likely to be charged than adults, and they are 50 per cent more likely to be charged for non-domestic assaults. Just last year, more than 600 people aged between 10 and 17 years were found with knives in their possession.

NSW Police Force 2022-23 Annual Report

The showed that Operation Foil, which targeted knife crime, resulted in the seizure of 97 knives. A similar operation in May 2023 saw some 295 knives seized. Operation Foil was conducted again this year on 11 April, and this time police seized 51 knives. Our police are working hard to detect knives and keep our community safe. We must support them and equip them with the tools and authority to find and confiscate those dangerous weapons.

Knives are the weapon that everyone has access to; they sit on everyone's kitchen bench and are for sale in most supermarkets, but they are a lethal weapon. We must act to protect the safety of our community and reflect the seriousness and the gravity of harm caused by knife-related crime. The bill will equip our NSW Police Force with the means to deter possession and use of knives and to better protect our New South Wales community. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr PAUL TOOLE (Bathurst) (15:48:36):

I speak in debate on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. I acknowledge that the bill is a step in the right direction. I also acknowledge the Beasley family and thank them for the actions that they have taken not only to see that the law is introduced in New South Wales but also to see that it was introduced in Queensland 12 months ago. Violent knife crime attacks the social fabric of our communities. It is a scourge on our communities. We need our communities to feel safe and we need to ensure that we give our police the resources that they need to maintain law and order.

We cannot turn a blind eye to knife crime. There are individual stories of lives that have been cut short—stories of dreams that have been left unfulfilled and of loved ones who are dealing with unimaginable loss. Wanding powers allow random checks, which allow people to feel safe. They allow people to have security, which is a fundamental human right. Wanding is not about targeting specific groups. It is not about targeting people depending on their race, religion or background. It is about ensuring that everybody in our communities can feel safe.

I acknowledge that the Government introduced the bill but it fails to protect citizens or give police the full powers that they need to maintain law and order in this State. That is why the Opposition has foreshadowed that it will be moving a number of amendments. I acknowledge Labor's attempt to address this serious issue. I heard the Minister talking about the number of knives that have been collected through Operation Foil over the past 12 months. It is a big number: 3,855 knives have been seized across the State. I think people would be quite shocked to know that so many knives are out there on our streets—and those are only the ones that were detected.

Recent events have shown how serious violent knife crime is, and that it can have a lasting and devastating impact on our community. From random stabbings to targeted attacks, the use of knives as weapons has become distressingly common. Lives have been lost, families shattered and communities left in fear. It is a stark reality that demands an equally robust response. This legislation should be about giving greater powers to law enforcement. It should safeguard our communities against the rising tide of violent knife crime. It should take decisive action to ensure the safety and security of every individual, every family and every neighbourhood.

The bill before us falls short of protecting communities and law-abiding citizens from future attacks. It increases punitive measures but it does not contain prevention and proactive measures that will stop attacks like those that have already rocked our communities from happening again. Prior to the Bondi or Wakeley attacks, no offence was committed by a person armed with a knife or other weapon and no serious indictable offence involving violence against a person was committed in the past 12 months in those locations. Therefore, those places would not have met the threshold to be declared designated areas, even if someone had the foresight to predict what was to occur in a 12-hour time frame, as suggested by the bill.

In the days after the Bondi and Wakeley incidents, a further three knife attacks occurred with a lot less media attention. A woman was attacked at Bondi Beach, two people were stabbed in Doonside and a day later another stabbing occurred at a house party in south-west Sydney. If we applied the proposed adaptation of Jack's law to New South Wales, not one of those incidents would have been prevented. For many people, going to church or the local shopping centre has become something that they are afraid to do. The sense of safety for everyone living in New South Wales has been shattered. The legislation must go above and beyond to reinstate people's trust in the Government and law enforcement agencies. Twelve hours in one location is not enough to change the behaviour of society. It is not enough time to alter increasing knife crime statistics. Only an "anytime, anywhere" approach will incite real, tangible change and promote that no amount of knife crime will be tolerated in New South Wales.

We all know that the police do an amazing job. They do an amazing job to ensure that, as an authority, they are there to intervene, investigate and apprehend those who pose a threat to public safety when and wherever they see fit. They are the ones on the ground. They are the ones putting their own safety at risk every day. They are the first to sense danger and they are the first to respond. There is no time to seek permission from a senior officer or the acting commissioner just so they can do their job properly. The right to live free from the threat of violence should take precedence over individual convenience. Wanding serves as a vital deterrent, dissuading would-be perpetrators from carrying knives and providing peace of mind to law-abiding citizens. It should be able to happen anywhere, at any time, to further deter potential offenders.

Further to that, wanding powers extend to more than just knife crime. During a metal scanner search, a police officer will have reasonable grounds to search the person in accordance with the ordinary search powers if they suspect the person is in possession of any type of dangerous article. Those random searches will protect the wider community from a variety of potential crimes and deter individuals from carrying any form of dangerous material and weapons. The cries of our mourning community have fallen on deaf ears if Labor thinks this bill is a proactive and preventative response to recent events.

These laws refer to designated areas—places like shopping centres. But only allowing certain places to be declared designated areas where there may be an increased risk of higher knife possession rates does nothing to reduce the actual risk. It only shifts the location of the risk; it does not eliminate it. Offenders will move from the shopping centre to the street out the front, from the public transport station to the neighbouring community centre, and wherever in between. Random knife attacks are just that: they are random. They can happen at any given moment at any location. It is not enough to pick out certain locations and guess at a 12-hour time frame of when an offender may strike.

Let us take the politics out of it. This is about people's lives. We are putting people forward. It is about strengthening the bill so that it will be effective in preventing further attacks and changing the narrative of knife crime in New South Wales. The police know what is best. Let the police do their job and let us give them the powers they need to do so effectively. The Opposition's foreshadowed amendments will enhance the bill so that it caters for the police taking proactive measures to address the issue anywhere, at any time.

Wanding is not new. If people are doing the right thing, they have nothing to worry about. Wanding takes place today at sporting events, the Sydney Royal Easter Show and at music festivals. Even at the latest Taylor Swift concert security guards were using wands. If people are complaining about wanding, what are they hiding? If someone is carrying a knife, they are there to cause significant harm to society. Bringing in knife laws but waiting for a problem to occur, or a violent knife crime, is ludicrous. It is ridiculous that the only designated areas are around public transport stations, shopping precincts, major sporting venues or other places where a relevant offence has occurred in the past 12 months. Designated areas weaken this bill. Twelve-hour time limits weaken this bill. The bill should cover anywhere, at any time. We should make it work for our police without restrictive or time-consuming guidelines. I support the Opposition's amendments.

Mr EDMOND ATALLA (Mount Druitt) (17:58:40):

I make a brief contribution in support of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. The New South Wales Government is committed to addressing knife crime to keep our community safe. The reforms will send a strong message that knife crime is not tolerated. The Bondi Junction massacre, the attack at a Wakeley church and the fatal stabbing of an 18-year-old near a school in Doonside have triggered an urgency in introducing further legislation to address the issue. The reforms in the bill will help address knife‑related crime, get knives off streets and keep the community safe.

The reforms build on responsible action taken by the New South Wales Government over the past year, including the doubling of maximum penalties for various knife-related offences in 2023; ongoing review by the NSW Sentencing Council into sentencing for firearms, knives and other weapons offences; and ongoing high‑impact NSW Police Force operations such as Operation Foil, which is an ongoing targeted knife crime and antisocial behaviour operation that last ran from 11 April to 13 April 2024, resulting in 51 knives and weapons seized and 145 people charged with weapon-related offences. Almost 4,000 knives were seized in public places in the past year alone.

The bill will make amendments that target the possession of knives following the reforms that were announced by the New South Wales Government on 7 May 2024. In particular, the bill will focus on the possession of knives by young people, reducing knife crime and enhancing the safety of our community. The bill empowers police, with the correct authority, to stop and scan individuals without a warrant by using a handheld metal scanner in designated areas. A senior police officer of the rank of assistant commissioner or above will be permitted to declare a public transport station, shopping precincts, major sporting venues and other public places prescribed by the regulations as a designated area. For one of those public spaces to be considered a designated area, a relevant offence must have occurred at that place within the past 12 months. A designated area will be in force for 12 hours once it has been declared. During that time, a police officer will have the power to stop any person in the designated area and scan them with a handheld metal scanner.

In the event that the scanner detects there is metal present, or there is likely to be metal present, the police officer has the power to require an individual to present the item that has made the scanner go off. It does not give the police officer the authority to search an individual without a warrant. However, if the police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual is carrying a weapon or dangerous object such as a knife, they may be able to search the person in accordance with ordinary search powers. Police officers will have the authority to confiscate a knife from a child who is found to be in possession of one in a public space without a reasonable excuse, as is permitted in the Young Offenders Act 1997. It is at the discretion of the police what they consider to be an appropriate punishment under the Act. That means that if police think it is suitable for a young offender to face court rather than be issued with a warning, they will face court. The scheme will sunset after three years, after which a statutory review will report to the Parliament on the policy and the impact of the scheme.

The bill will amend the prohibition of the sale of knives to children and increase the penalties associated with the sale of knives to children. The maximum penalty for selling a knife to a child under the age of 16 in New South Wales is currently 50 penalty units, which is the equivalent of $5,500. The bill raises it to 100 penalty units, which is a fine of $11,000, 12 months imprisonment or both. Further, the bill introduces a new offence into the Summary Offences Act 1988 to prohibit a person from selling knives to a child aged 16 or 17 without a reasonable excuse. If the person is satisfied that the child requires the knife for education, occupation or training purposes, that constitutes a reasonable excuse. It is vital that we work to keep our community safe. The inclusions in the bill aim to do just that. They will empower police, deter knife crime and restrict the selling of knives to children. In closing, I quote the Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism, who summed up why the laws are so important:

Giving police the ability to "wand" or "scan" for knives in designated areas is a proactive step toward ensuring community safety. By detecting and deterring knife possession, we're not just preventing potential crime, we're also safeguarding lives. The introduction of legislation inspired by Jack's Law isn't just about law enforcement. It's also about instilling confidence in our community, showing that we're actively working to keep them safe. These laws mark a crucial shift in our approach to combatting knife crime, especially among our youth. By introducing this legislation, we're sending a clear message that knife crime will not be tolerated in our community.

I commend the bill to the House.

Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (18:05:26):

I speak on behalf of The Greens in debate on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. The bill seeks to provide the NSW Police Force with new powers to stop and scan, or "wand", with a handheld metal detector any person in a designated area. It also seeks to limit the supply of knives to people under the age of 18 by creating a new offence for the sale of knives to 16- and 17-year-olds without a reasonable excuse and doubling the maximum penalty for the sale of knives to children under 16 years of age from $5,500 to $11,000, 12 months in prison or both.

The bill comes just weeks after the NSW Labor Government rushed through bail reforms that experts warn will see more children, particularly First Nations children, locked up. Bill after bill, we have seen a series of reactive, punitive law enforcement measures introduced by the Minns Labor Government. Bill after bill, we are seeing the damage that that approach will cause young people, First Nations people and already marginalised and victimised members of the community. Taking that approach—acting tough on law and order and handing more sweeping powers to the NSW Police Force to target and harass certain groups—and failing to address the underlying causes of violent and gender-based attacks will not make our community safer. It is for that reason that The Greens do not support the bill.

There is no denying that recent incidents involving violent knife crime have been tragic and devastating. Our hearts collectively go out to those victims, their loved ones and their communities. The incidents at Bondi and Wakeley have been shocking and traumatic for many in the community. We know that more supports for those with complex health needs—those with mental health needs, those facing homelessness and those who have survived or are affected by traumatic incidents like these—are desperately needed. The Greens absolutely back the expansion of vital support services for people who are otherwise falling through the cracks, including significant increases to mental health supports. On that note, I alert the House to the report handed down by my Greens colleague Dr Amanda Cohn. It makes a suite of 39 recommendations to better fund and resource mental health services, address unsafe workloads and reform emergency responses to mental health crises.

The Greens are deeply concerned that no case has been made as to how the bill, had it been in place before recent tragic incidents, would have made a difference in any of those specific circumstances. Furthermore, the passage of the bill will see many people who have not done anything wrong—who are not carrying a knife and who have no intention to commit a violent crime—being targeted, punished and potentially subjected to serious charges. As a result, there will be serious consequences for the human rights and civil liberties of many in the community. In New South Wales knife possession and knife‑related incidents of violence have been on a downward trend for several years. The most recent data from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows that knife crime is at a 20‑year low with 1,518 violent knife incidents in 2023 compared to 4,258 in 2004. That is nearly a 65 per cent reduction over two decades.

Like so many of the tough‑on‑crime responses introduced by this Labor Government and, indeed, successive Labor governments before that, the measures proposed in this bill are a reaction that flies in the face of years of evidence, justified only by an inaccurate skewing and complete misrepresentation of the reality of knife crime and its threat to our community in New South Wales. That is not to say that each one of those individual violent knife crimes and the people who have suffered as a result of those and who have been impacted by that trauma are not deserving of our outgoing sympathy and respect, but I repeat that the Government has yet to provide any evidence or details on how the laws we are debating would have addressed or prevented any of those violent knife attacks.

Under this bill a police officer of any rank can stop and search any person in New South Wales without a warrant. The police officer may also detain a person for as long as they deem reasonably necessary to exercise their powers. Let us be clear: That person may have no knife on them and the police will have the powers to do that. The potential for this bill to erode civil and individual liberties that are the hallmark of any democracy and society cannot be overstated. First, the notion of reasonable suspicion is a fundamental part of our justice system. It is essential to ensuring that searches that are arbitrary or based on biases, generalisations or negative stereotypes are prevented; that someone's ethnicity, their religion, their appearance or mannerisms are not grounds for a random search.

While we know that New South Wales police already take liberties with the reasonable suspicion provision—for example, through the use of sniffer drug dogs as an intimidatory tactic—all this bill does is afford the police even more power and discretion. To be clear. the police in New South Wales already have extensive search and seizure powers. This bill would only add to them at an alarming rate, and no police officer would be required to have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a random search. This bill is said to be modelled on the Queensland law—a law that was introduced in response to the death of a young man in Surfers Paradise because of multiple stabbings. However, a review of the trial of the wanding powers afforded under this Act conducted by Griffith University exposed several fundamental flaws with wanding as an approach to address knife‑related crimes. The Griffith University review found:

… in crowded … [Safe Night Precincts] it is not practical to wand every individual, so the variation and inconsistency in who gets selected was considerable. Much of this seemed to lack any evidence base related to actual offending patterns among different groups at different places, and to vary across different groups of officers.

In other words, when faced with a large group of people, officers in the trial did not appear to decide who to search based on evidence, but rather on an individual and inconsistent basis. This finding should be cause for concern for anyone who values concerns about people's rights and liberties being breached but also who opposes the idea of racial profiling, which should be everybody in this place. The review also found evidence of police using their wanding power as a way to detect other offences and collect information. As the New South Wales Bar Association wrote, "There is limited, if any, evidence‑based research or findings that demonstrate that random scanning powers lead to reduced violent knife crime rates in any significant way." This begs the question: Knowing that the Queensland Police Powers and Responsibilities (Jack's Law) Amendment Act 2023 was applied inconsistently, targeted certain people based on an officer's own discretion, and was used for purposes other than searching for knives, why is this New South Wales Labor Government trying to follow suit by bringing forward its own flawed bill?

Extension of time

This bill does not protect our communities. Instead, it takes us another step closer to a draconian State that authorises mass warrantless searches and surveillance that will further entrench the NSW Police Force's ingrained culture of systemic racism and attacking and targeting marginalised communities in contact with the carceral systems. In a recent report on the strip searching of children by New South Wales police, Redfern Legal Centre revealed that First Nations children made up almost 45 per cent of children strip searched between 2016 and 2023, despite being only 6.2 per cent of the population aged between 10 and 17. []

We also saw the use by New South Wales police of the Suspect Targeting Management Plan resulting in the "overuse of overt and intrusive policing tactics ... resulting in unreasonable surveillance and monitoring of young people", and a "gross over‑representation of young … people selected for STMP targeting". In another example of police abuse of power, between 1 January 2013 and 30 June 2023 there were 94,535 general and strip searches prompted by sniffer drug dogs—and nearly 75 per cent of these searches found no illicit substances. I emphasise: 75 per cent found no illicit substances. These numbers are damning and unacceptable. The impact of this on people's lives no doubt will inflict immediate and intergenerational trauma that will only be increased by the passing of this bill. As the CEO of the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Service, Karly Warner, said:

Too often we see Aboriginal people – often children – speak up against police targeting and end up with police charging them with a trifecta of offensive language, resist arrest, and assault police, without having done anything wrong in the first place.

It is a shame that we are yet again in this place debating a law that is not thought through and will not address or limit the tragedies that have occurred and that erodes fundamental individual liberties and rights and will cause unconscionable harm to marginalised communities. But while it is shameful, it is, sadly, not surprising. After all, we know that New South Wales Labor historically has had a commitment to introducing tough law and order reforms, but we have to remember that this Labor Government was also the same Government that promised drug law reform and protection of human rights in the State ahead of the last election.

Sadly, we have seen little movement in those spaces. This is the same Government that committed to reducing Indigenous incarceration and youth diversion, but whose actions and legislative agenda have so far done the opposite. I foreshadow that The Greens in the other place will move amendments that attempt to salvage this bad bill and curtail some of the harm it will undoubtedly cause against our communities. The amendments will include preventing entirely the use of wanding powers on any child under the age of 14 and limiting the use of wanding on a person who is under 18 to circumstances where their parent or guardian is present and the police officer is reasonably satisfied that wanding is necessary as a measure of last resort.

These amendments will also require a police officer to inform an individual that they may produce any metal object prior to being subjected to wanding powers and leave the area without being subject to wanding powers, or do both. The Greens amendments that will be moved in other place will also require the commissioner to keep records about the use of wanding powers conferred by this bill—including details of whether a knife or another weapon was found as a result of the scan, and whether other police powers were exercised in conjunction with the scan—and include this information in an annual report of the NSW Police Force.

I urge the Opposition, the New South Wales Labor Government and the crossbench to carefully consider these amendments moved in the other place in detail and in good faith, and to support them with the intention of mitigating the significant harmful and unintended consequences that this bill will have. We know the solutions, and we have known the solutions for years. For decades experts have called on successive governments to invest in evidence-based, frontline youth services and community-led initiatives designed to address crime prevention and mental health issues, but those calls have, sadly, gone unanswered. It is long past the time that NSW Labor broke the cycle, finally listened and meaningfully responded to those calls. It is time to step up and stop pandering to the beck and call of the NSW Police Force.

The Greens call on the Government to heed the warnings of First Nation Elders, communities and legal experts, and civil liberties and human rights advocates on the damage that this bill will cause. We urge NSW Labor to listen to the overwhelming chorus of experts who say that more rigorous consultation is required to develop an evidence-based response that will not have grave, unintended consequences for the very communities we are trying to protect. The Greens cannot support this bill, which will hand more power to the NSW Police Force, will not make our community any safer and will, indeed, cause further harm.

Ms KAREN McKEOWN (Penrith) (18:20:21):

I briefly speak in favour of the important Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. In June last year the Government amended the Crimes Act 1900 to increase the penalty for knife possession and knife use, passing legislation that doubled the maximum penalties for separate offences. At that time no-one could have predicted the string of violent knife crimes that we have recently experienced. In line with strong community expectation, the Government has introduced the further reforms in this bill to build on last year's reforms. Over a period of just four days, there were five unrelated stabbing attacks across Sydney, leaving seven people dead. Elsewhere in Sydney, another three stabbings passed with less attention, yet they were more indicative of the knife crime that occurs without more than a passing mention on any given week. The number of attacks over such a short period of time left our communities in shock and justifiably angry. The message was loud and clear: Enough is enough.

It is the role of responsible government to keep our communities safe, and this bill will go a long way towards that. The bill targets the possession of knives to reduce knife crime and boost community safety. The bill amends the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 to authorise police to stop and scan persons by using a handheld metal scanner in designated areas without a warrant. Reporting requirements and safeguards are built into the bill to protect people, to minimise any imposition on the person being scanned and to protect vulnerable people. The current bill is largely influenced by Queensland's Jack's law. Since Jack's law passed in Queensland in March 2023, 577 weapons have been seized. The weapons seized range from kitchen and butchers' knives to tomahawks, hammers, hunting knives, knuckledusters, screwdrivers and more. To put that in perspective, this potentially means that many acts of violence were disrupted by the removal of those weapons. The bill also amends section 11F of the Summary Offences Act 1988. It increases the maximum penalty for the offence of selling a knife to a child under the age of 16 and introduces a new offence prohibiting a person from selling a knife to a child aged 16 or 17 without a reasonable excuse.

While the crime statistics here in New South Wales show that violent knife crime has been trending downwards, we need, in fact, to analyse the numbers behind the statistics, where a more complicated picture emerges. "Certainly, amongst some groups, especially young people, we are seeing the carrying and use of knives increasing," said University of Newcastle criminologist Dr Xanthé Mallett. "And that's particularly concerning, because we are talking about people as young as 12 carrying weapons." Unfortunately, young people are significantly over-represented when it comes to who is being charged with violent knife crimes. Robbery figures are particularly confronting, according to Jackie Fitzgerald, the executive director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR]. She said, "Taking into account the population, young people aged 10 to 17 are about six times more likely than adults to be charged in New South Wales. For non-domestic assault," she said, "the rates for young people are about 50 per cent higher." BOCSAR statistics reported more than 600 people aged 10 to 17 were found with knives in the past year.

The NSW Police Force undertakes regular operations to target knife crime. I note that in the 2022 annual report, the NSW Police Force said that the statewide Operation Foil had resulted in 966 charges and 97 knives being seized. A similar operation in May last year led to 172 people being charged with 565 offences and 294 knives being seized. According to the police commissioner last month, in the week before the Bondi Junction attack another Operation Foil took place in which 51 knives were seized. I note the figures that Minister Catley quoted in her contribution earlier, that 3,855 knives were seized between April 2023 and April 2024. The problem, of course, is that knives are readily available and easily concealed. That is why we need measures such as those contained in this bill. These new laws demonstrate our Government's commitment. They are a major step towards reducing weapon accessibility among young people and advancing the fight against knife crime. I wholeheartedly agree with the Attorney General that we must do more to deter knife possession and reflect the seriousness and gravity of the potential harm caused. That is why I support the bill. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr MARK TAYLOR (Winston Hills) (18:25:36):

I speak on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. I put on record that I support the bill, particularly those aspects relating to the selling of knives to young people. However, I emphasise the shadow Attorney General's comments about the bill and its need for amendment. I start by putting on the record my deepest sympathies and condolences to those affected by the recent Bondi tragedy and also to Jack's parents, the Beasleys, and I note their advocacy achievements in attempting to make our community a safer place. I recently assisted a local family whose son was the victim of a knife-related robbery. He was required to attend court to give evidence as a victim against one of the offenders. I retell these events because knife crime has an everyday effect on all members of the community, not only those involved in high-profile cases.

The young person I talk about is a well-respected sporting and academic high achiever at one of my electorate's well-known quality schools. He comes from a respectful, decent family, just like many other families within the electorate of Winston Hills. On the day in question—and it is important to understand that it was a day—it was 5.00 p.m. on a summer afternoon in a busy, suburban shopping area. The young man had just walked his girlfriend from her part-time place of employment to the local railway. He said goodbye to her and turned to head home, when he was confronted by a number of teenagers. One of those teenagers produced a knife and demanded his wallet and phone, and the terrified young man handed both over. They then demanded his card and phone personal identification numbers. They took a photo of him and said, "If you dob on us, we will track you down and stab you."

We can imagine that horrifying event and the trauma the young person suffered, but it was not only him. It extended to his girlfriend, who was on the train heading home and could not understand why he was not returning the texts she had started to send as soon as she got on the train. That continued for her for some hours, completely unaware of what had happened to him. It extended to his mother, who was contacted by his girlfriend, saying that she could not contact him and did not know what had happened. The whole family was concerned for his welfare. The presence of knives at this crime completely changed the seriousness of the possible and actual consequences the victim suffered. As I said, it was broad daylight in our suburb. The possession of knives in public places is dangerous, as we see in high-profile cases but, importantly, from a community safety point of view, it is also potentially very dangerous, as was the situation for the young person in my electorate.

There is a deadly combination of mentally ill persons and knives, and there is a deadly combination of young people and knives. That combination in young people, particularly, is founded in a lack of understanding and awareness of the potential seriousness of their actions. Let us be frank: Knife crime is predominantly associated with young people, and that is sometimes founded in bravado derived from social media, movies and peer association. The potential consequences of carrying a "shiv", a "blade" or a "steel", as knives are known, are often lost on a young person due to their immaturity.

The taking of knives from young people during policing operations not only protects potential victims; importantly, it also protects young offenders who may end up committing very serious crimes and being incarcerated in circumstances where they did not have an understanding of the seriousness of what they were involved in. If it is accepted that knife crime and young people are associated, then wanding as a form of search is an excellent response. What better way to be as unintrusive as possible than a quick scan with a wand, rather than a hands‑on physical search of a young person? It is for these reasons that I support the wanding legislation. However, as I said at the start of my contribution, this bill is a good idea but the implementation is poor.

The bill has been nobbled. Whether that is from a lack of deep consultation, or for some other reason, I do not know. But there has been a lack of consultation, as The Greens have indicated. The New South Wales Bar Association was not consulted. I wonder, considering the implementation issues with the bill, how deeply the police association or, in fact, officers of the police force were consulted. One of the biggest impacts on police numbers and police effectiveness is paperwork and red tape. Cutting out just an hour a day of police paperwork over a week would get an extra officer a day on the street. In the current climate, where police numbers are critical, cutting paperwork and red tape so that police can do their operational job more effectively is valuable to society. This bill ties the police up in knots, it drowns them in paperwork and it puts hurdles and hoops in front of them.

I now turn to the bill to indicate those hurdles and hoops that the police are facing. Firstly, I note that the bill provides for a trial of police powers. It is often said, "If you can't get a change through, put it through as a trial." One has to wonder why this legislation is being put before us as only a trial that runs out in three years, considering the seriousness of the Bondi Junction incident and situations such as the one Jack faced. For police to be able to use the trial power to carry out scans in a declared designated area requires the authorisation of an assistant commissioner. We are talking about knife crime in a public place. We have police officers out in public spaces every night and day—senior constables, sergeants, inspectors, superintendents and chief superintendents. But none of those operational police are able to make a declaration that a place is a designated area. They would have to move above the rank of assistant commissioner, into the top 1 per cent of the organisation, to have that power. This is the first hurdle faced by the police on the streets who are attempting to protect us.

If such a declaration is made, as the shadow Attorney General indicated, it is only for a period of 12 hours. However, prior to making that declaration, the senior police officer needs to, firstly, be certain that knife offences have happened at the place in the previous 12 months; secondly, consider that the use of hand‑held scanners will be an effective means of deterrence; and, thirdly, have considered the impact of the use of hand‑held scanners on lawful activity in the area and whether any past hand‑held scanners in the area have been effective. Apart from those determinations, new section 45H requires a declaration of a designated area to be published on the NSW Police Force website "as soon as practicable" after the declaration is made—that is, not after the wanding has taken place and the operation is finished, or after 12 hours, but as soon as practicable once the declaration is made.

Extension of time

So if the police declare Central Railway Station to be a designated area, as soon as practicable that declaration will appear on the NSW Police Force website, and I assume that the young people I referred to earlier will become aware of it and tell others through social media, "Don't go to Central station if you're carrying a knife." This publication requirement nobbles the bill's effectiveness. A further example of red tape in the bill is when the designated area includes a train station. A complex new section provides that authorised use of the scanner extends to two scheduled stops in either direction. This makes it more difficult for police: Has there been one stop, two stops or three stops? It indicates that when drafting the bill there was an attempt to make it as bureaucratic and as difficult to interpret as possible. []

Continuing in that vein, the bill provides that the police officer who is exercising the power must do so in the least invasive way practicable and, if practicable, the police officer must be of the same sex as the person being searched. Before exercising a power, the police officer must give the person evidence that the police officer is a police officer, unless they are in uniform; the name and place of duty of the police officer; and the reason for the exercise of the power. They must also give a warning to the person that the person is required by law to comply with the direction.

Those requirements set the tone of the implementation difficulties that police on the street will face. Not only do they have to seek the permission of a senior officer, not only does that senior officer have to go through a series of assessments involving whether crime has occurred at that scene before, but then the operational officers have to perform their duties in a particular way, complying with the Act with regard to producing evidence and providing warnings to people. And the red tape continues under new section 45P, which requires the police commissioner to maintain records about the use of the powers and to publish that information in the NSW Police Force's annual report under the Government Sector Finance Act. The Minister for Police and Counter‑terrorism must then review the proposed Act after a period of two years and table a report on the outcome of the review in each House of Parliament. Basically, my submission is that this bill contains an excellent idea that has been nobbled in its implementation. If the Government is serious about this bill, it will remove the roadblocks and let the police get on with doing their job.

Mr PHILIP DONATO (Orange) (18:37:43):

I speak on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. The bill addresses a critical issue that demands immediate and comprehensive action. From the outset, I recognise the Government for its response to the horrific events at Bondi Junction on 13 April 2024. Like the member for Winston Hills, I express my sincere condolences to the families of the victims of that tragedy. I thank the Attorney General for bringing this bill to the House. This legislation is a necessary and urgent response to the tragic and horrifying Bondi Junction mass stabbing murders and the alarming increase in knife‑related homicides across our State.

As someone who has dedicated over two decades of my life to policing in this State, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating consequences of knife crime, and my experience in law enforcement has provided me with a unique perspective on the challenges and dangers our police officers face around the clock each and every day. These challenges are not just about enforcing the law but also about ensuring the safety of the community. In recent years we have seen a disturbing pattern of knife‑related violence. The statistics are not just numbers; they represent lives lost, families shattered and communities living in fear. The Bondi Junction tragedy was a stark reminder that knife crime can happen anywhere, at any time and to anyone. It is our duty to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated. This bill is a step in the right direction. It seeks to enhance the power and, therefore, the capabilities of our police, equipping them with the additional tools that they need to effectively combat and detect knife crime.

From experience, I can attest that one of the greatest challenges that police face is the unpredictability and lethal nature of knife attacks. Knives can be easily concealed and can be obtained without much difficulty. They are in almost every household kitchen and can be purchased from supermarkets. The amendments proposed in the bill include increased search and seizure powers in declared areas; stricter penalties for sale, possession and use of knives; and improved support for knife crime prevention programs. These measures are designed not only to deter potential offenders but also to empower our police officers to act swiftly and decisively in situations where a knife attack is imminent.

One of the key components of the bill is the extension of the search and seizure powers. It is critical that we remove weapons from the streets before they can be used to commit crimes. Current limitations often prevent police from conducting searches based on reasonable suspicion alone, hindering their ability to act pre‑emptively. By granting authority to police in this area, we can significantly reduce the number of knives in circulation and prevent potential attacks. The bill also proposes tougher penalties for those found in possession of a knife without a lawful excuse. It is imperative that we send a strong message that carrying a knife without a lawful excuse will not be tolerated in our society. This legislative change will hopefully serve as a deterrent, making would‑be offenders think twice before arming themselves and going out onto the streets.

Prevention is as important as enforcement. The bill includes provisions for increased funding and support for knife crime prevention programs, particularly for those targeting young people. As someone who has worked with youth during my policing career, I understand the importance of education and early intervention. By addressing the root causes of knife crime, such as social disadvantage and lack of opportunities, we can hopefully steer vulnerable individuals away from a path of crime and violence. It would be remiss of me not to discuss mental health, which is entirely relevant to the conversation. While the legislation is a welcome element of the Government's response, mental illness as a factor of knife-related and other violent crime also needs to be addressed with equal measure.

I note the announcement from the Government today on $111 million in this year's budget being directed towards mental health, and I welcome that announcement. I urge the Government to explore realistic policy options and to act appropriately on this aspect for public safety. The safety of our communities and our police is paramount. The bill is not just about giving police more power; it is about a creating a safer community for everyone. Enhanced resources for officers will ensure they are better prepared to handle knife-related incidents, reducing the risk to their own lives and to those of the public.

The Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024 is a vital piece of legislation. It addresses the urgent need to combat the rising threat of knife crime in our State and reflects a commitment to the safety and well-being of New South Wales residents. The bill is an approach that combines enhanced law enforcement capabilities with proactive prevention measures. That is why I support the bill. While it is no panacea, it is a positive step towards reducing knife crime and protecting lives. By passing this legislation, we honour the victims of the Bondi Junction tragedy and other knife crimes. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr GURMESH SINGH (Coffs Harbour) (18:43:38):

I speak to the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. Members will recall the tragic events of 13 April where six people were killed and 12 injured at Bondi Junction Westfield. That was the catalyst for the Labor Government bringing this bill. But I also want to speak briefly about a tragedy that happened in my electorate of Coffs Harbour.

Just after 6.00 a.m. on 2 May, emergency services were called to Ocean Parade in Coffs Harbour, just outside the Coffs Harbour Surf Club, following reports that a man had been stabbed. A 21-year-old, Kye Schaefer, was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics for chest and neck injuries before being taken to Coffs Harbour Base Hospital where he later died. Officers attached to the Coffs-Clarence Police District attended and established a crime scene before the matter was taken carriage of by the State Crime Command's Homicide Squad under Strike Force Kooringaroo. There has been a silver lining: today the strike force detectives arrested a 36‑year‑old man at a Coffs Harbour correctional facility. He was taken to the police station where he has been charged with murder. I congratulate the NSW Police Force on its great work apprehending this alleged murderer. Today's arrest brings a degree of closure to the family and also reassures our community that an alleged murderer is behind bars.

The bill is being modelled off Jack's law in Queensland. In its first 12 months that law has been incredibly successful. It is an evidence-based approach. In the first seven months the Queensland Police Service seized 400 weapons, and in the last five months it seized about 20 knives per month—obviously word got out that the police had the power to search people. A total of 500 weapons were seized in the first 12 months. That activity was front-loaded in the first seven months of the law being in place. However, the Opposition does not believe that that this bill goes far enough. We will be proposing amendments that will give police the power to wand people anywhere and at any time. It is important for us to reiterate that there are legal reasons for people to have custody of knives in public places. Those reasons, which are covered in section 93IB of the Crimes Act, are:

(3)A reasonable excuse includes the person having the knife in the person's custody—

(a)because it is reasonably necessary for—

(i)the lawful pursuit of the person's occupation, education or training, or

(ii)the preparation or consumption of food or drink, or

(iii)participation in a lawful entertainment, recreation or sport, or

(iv)the exhibition of knives for retail or other trade purposes, or

(v)an organised exhibition by knife collectors, or

(vi)the wearing of an official uniform, or

(vii)genuine religious purposes, or

(b)because it is reasonably necessary during travel to or from or incidental to an activity … or

(c)in circumstances prescribed by the regulations.

There are still legal reasons for people to have knives with them. The bill does not seek to change that. The amendments proposed by the Opposition largely seek to remove the designated areas that are defined in the bill. The amendments will create a more effective deterrent for anyone wanting to unlawfully carry a knife. We want to send people the message that they can be wanded anywhere and at any time.

Wanding is a non-evasive search. It is already quite commonplace in places like airports, concerts and sporting venues. The New South Wales police force does an amazing job keeping our streets safe. We trust our police to do random breath testing. We know that random breath testing can happen on any street—a backstreet, a main street or on a highway. It can be a on a Friday night, a Tuesday morning or a Wednesday afternoon. Every time a person hops into their car, there is a reasonable expectation there could be random breath testing on any street they drive down. That is a very effective deterrent for people not to drink and drive. The Opposition contends that wanding also needs to be anywhere and at any time. If somebody is walking down the street, illegally carrying a knife, there should be an expectation that any police officer can wand them. If somebody is breaking the law, the full force of the law and the penalties will apply.

The Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism said in her contribution earlier this evening that Jack's law in Queensland is a good law, but we know that Queensland is looking at strengthening its laws. It is even admitting that its laws do not go far enough. Being in government is not just copying the homework of a neighbouring State. It is about creating laws that are fit for purpose and fit for our current conditions in New South Wales. It is my belief and it is the Opposition's belief that this power should not be limited to shopping centres, transport and sporting venues. It should be available anywhere, any time. Police should have the power to wand someone, for instance, carrying a knife illegally down a residential street. Currently, the bill would not allow for that.

I note that The Greens will also move amendments to the bill. Very disappointingly, they are seemingly more concerned about a person's right to commit a crime than about keeping our families safe. Their amendments will greatly weaken the bill. Firstly, they will not apply to people under 14. Children will be free to carry knives, according to The Greens. The Greens will require somebody aged between 14 and 18 to have a parent with them before they are wanded. I do not know what planet The Greens are living on, but how many people between the ages of 14 and 18, with criminal intent and illegally carrying a knife, are walking around with their parents? It beggars belief that The Greens would put forward amendments that would weaken the bill in this way.

Betoota Advocate

One of The Greens' amendments is truly gobsmacking, and that is that the police can give a person, before wanding, an opportunity to leave the area. Anyone carrying a knife illegally would have the option to say to the police, "That's fine. I won't consent to a search. I'll just leave." They would take their knife with them and potentially put people in another location in harm's way. I honestly sometimes think that the writes policies for The Greens. Certainly, it must have had a hand in writing the speech this evening.

Over the past few months it has become evident that crime is on the rise in our communities. They do not feel safe and many feel that the pendulum has swung too far away from protecting our citizens and towards protecting criminals. I say to those who are apologists for criminal behaviour that the community has had enough. They want their families to be safe. They want justice for crimes committed and they are demanding laws that hold criminals accountable for their behaviour. If somebody does not have a lawful reason for carrying a knife, our community expects them to be held accountable. While we can never eliminate the risk of horrible things happening, it is our duty in this place to reduce the risks as much as possible. I urge the Government and the crossbench to support the Opposition's amendments, strengthen the bill and give our hardworking police officers the tools they need to keep our community safe.

Mr MARK HODGES (Castle Hill) (18:52:59):

I contribute to the important debate on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. We have heard from members in the House about the four days and five unrelated stabbings across Sydney during April this year. Seven people tragically lost their lives. Six of those persons died at the hands of Joe Cauchi, the 40‑year‑old Queenslander who attacked mostly women in a Bondi Junction shopping centre. There was then the stabbing in Wakeley in Western Sydney, another stabbing in Bondi and a stabbing in Doonside. There may well have been more offences involving knives.

I put on record, like other members of the House, my deep condolences to the relatives of the victims of the recent knife crimes. I also extend my condolences and sympathy to the parents of Jack Beasley, Brett and Belinda Beasley. I thank Brett and Belinda for their commitment to changing the laws on carrying and using knives in our society. The Opposition is pleased that the Government has introduced the bill. However, for the reasons given earlier today by the shadow Attorney General, the member for Wahroonga, the bill does not provide sufficient powers to the police. I note that the shadow Attorney General will be proposing amendments to strengthen the powers of the police to combat knife crime. I fully support those amendments.

In this House, as legislators, we have a responsibility to enact legislation which will ensure that those who we represent in our communities can go about their business and their lives safely. We also have a responsibility to ensure that the community is free from intrusive actions by the police. We must balance civil liberties with the rights of community members to go about their business while being protected. The question of where the balance lies between crime reduction and community safety on the one hand and the interference with civil liberties on the other hand is not always simple. The debate on the bill before the House is really about whether the police should be given greater powers—namely, greater powers than those foreshadowed in the bill—to enhance their ability to protect society.

The Opposition will seek to amend the bill to allow the police to use metal detection wands at any time and place, without being in a designated area. I support that amendment. As a solicitor prior to being elected to this place, I saw the harmful effects of knife crimes. I appeared for persons who had been charged with committing knife crimes. I have been influenced by victims who have suffered at the hands of people committing knife crimes. Anyone who knows a victim or knows the family of a victim will more than surely agree with me that the powers given to police to use metal detecting wands should be far greater than those contained in the Government's bill.

I am aware of the New South Wales Bar Association's position on the bill. Today I read the Bar Association's submission. I note that the Bar Association was not consulted by the Government on the draft bill prior to the introduction of the bill into the House. Given the importance of the bill to the safety of our community on the one hand and the interference with the liberties of our community on the other hand, it is not clear to me why the Government did not consult with the Bar Association. I assume that the Government also failed to consult with the Law Society. Like the member for Winston Hills, as a former police officer, I have doubts that the Government obtained the advice of the NSW Police Force. I recognise that the Bar Association is concerned that the bill will have a profound impact on the civil liberties of people in New South Wales. There is, however, a need to take action to ensure that our community members can go about their lives safely. I note that there is a sunset clause contained within new section 45R, which has been set at three years.

I now consider provisions of the bill that limit handheld scanners to designated areas and the circumstances upon which a senior police officer may designate an area. New section 45F provides that a senior police officer, which is the rank of assistant commissioner, may by written instrument declare certain areas to be designated areas. The areas are limited to public transport stations, shopping precincts, sporting venues or other places prescribed by the regulations. I appreciate that the bill is modelled on the Queensland legislation, but there does not appear to be any proper basis for limiting the designated area to the places mentioned. Rather than adding to the prescribed area by regulation, greater clarity to the police and to the community would be achieved if the designated area was not limited pursuant to section 45F. It would appear that the Government, as indicated by previous members, has merely stolen the homework of the Queensland Parliament. It has copied another State without really looking into the bill and making it fit for purpose for this State.

The circumstances in which a police officer, namely a senior police officer, may declare a place as a designated area are set out in section 45G. It is the Opposition's view that wanding should take place at any time. The requirement contained within new section 45G (a) that a relevant offence has occurred within the past 12 months undermines the preventative aims of the legislation. Furthermore, the requirement contained within new section 45G (b) that the senior police officer must conclude that the declaration of the area as a designated area is likely to be effective in detecting or deterring the commission of an offence involving a knife or other weapon does not make sense. The police officer will no doubt be challenged in court as to how they were able to form such a view.

As a solicitor who has practised in criminal law, I assure the House that there will be those who consistently challenge the views held by the senior police officer. We may see many assistant commissioners having to turn up and give evidence in court. The ability of a defendant who is charged as a result of this legislation to challenge the belief of a police officer completely undermines the legislation. For the declaration of an area as a "designated area" to have any meaningful deterrent effect, members of the community must know that the area has been so declared. It is worth examining how the provision would have any deterrent effect when the only form of publication is that which is set out in proposed section 45H, which provides that an instrument declaring a place to be a designated area must be published on the police website as soon as practicable after the declaration is made.

A proper reading of the bill means that the police could be exercising the power to wand a member of society before the declaration is published on the website. An Opposition amendment will seek to delete proposed new section 45H. Even if that amendment is not successful, I indicate to the Attorney General that, as a matter of evidence, it would be far more sensible that the declaration only come into effect when the declaration is published on the website. That would give certainty to the time and date of such declaration. The legitimacy of the police power depends upon society knowing, with certainty, that an area has been declared a designated area. Legitimacy of the power is enhanced when the legislation and the declaration are clear. Because of the way in which the legislation has been drafted, a member of society may not be able to see the published declaration on the police website and the member of society may then want to challenge the ability of the police to exercise the power. Again, it would be far more sensible if the declaration only came into effect upon publication on the website.

Proposed new section 45I sets out a 12-hour limitation period. Whilst I again acknowledge that the Government has merely copied the Queensland legislation, which contains the 12‑hour period, I stress to members of this House that there does not appear to be any research that suggests that the 12-hour period is the most sensible period to include in the legislation. It is the Opposition's position that the power of the police to use the metal detection wands should be available to the police at any time. As members of this House know, my career prior to being elected to this place was as a police officer, a police prosecutor and a lawyer. I have high respect for members of the NSW Police Force. By putting forward amendments to the bill, the Opposition also respects the views of police officers and wants to enable them to exercise their powers correctly and for the purpose of keeping our community safe.

Extension of time

The police should not be hamstrung by legislation that does not protect the community. I draw on my own experience as a police officer, and I wish to ensure that our police are given the powers to keep our community safe. Weapons are a threat to the safety of our community. By providing police with a broad-ranging power, they will proactively be able to protect the public. I appreciate that the Bar Association contends that the bill may result in unfair targeting of marginalised or Indigenous members of society. []

I note that the Bar Association's submission states, "The association is concerned that the powers to conduct handheld scanner searches are likely to disproportionately impact marginalised and vulnerable groups in New South Wales, including First Nations people." In answer to the Bar Association's concerns, I again refer to the need for a balance to be struck between protecting our society from harmful crimes such as knife crimes on the one hand and the interference with civil liberties on the other hand. The balance always causes concern when consideration is given to increasing police powers. The need to keep our community safe is paramount, in my view, and tilts the balance in favour of providing the police with greater powers. It is my view and the Opposition's view that the powers should be not limited, as set out in the bill, and should be exercisable anywhere and at any time. The bill does not give the police broad enough powers. Therefore, I ask members to support the Opposition's amendments when presented to the House.

Mrs WENDY TUCKERMAN (Goulburn) (19:04:05):

I speak in debate on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024 and on the introduction of Jack's law in New South Wales. As we know, this law was named after a young man named Jack who lost his life due to a violent and unprovoked attack. Jack was fatally stabbed during a night out in Surfers Paradise in 2019. The tragedy saw Queensland police introduce Jack's law. The bill seeks to address knife crime by giving police wanding powers in New South Wales. The bill is essential in assuring the safety of our communities. However, in its current form, wanding powers are subject to geographical restrictions, meaning wanding is only allowed in designated areas and on board public transport vehicles that are within those designated areas. Those areas are limited to public transport stations, shopping precincts, sporting venues and other public places prescribed by the regulations, including places where there are special events or events in support of the night-time economy.

In the wake of tragedies like those that we have witnessed, I stand firm with my colleagues in proposing that amendments be made to the bill to give the NSW Police Force powers to wand in any public place at any time. As drafted, the laws would be technically and operationally fraught. They would be a defence lawyer's dream as they make the dismissal of an alleged offender's charges more likely. As the member for Winston Hills so beautifully detailed, the bill ties up our police in red tape. It is so convoluted that it unnecessarily restricts police in performing the very job we want them to do.

By amending the bill to include wanding powers, Jack's law in New South Wales would take a firm stance against perpetrators of violent crimes by sending a clear and resolute message that anyone who carries a knife in New South Wales with the intent to commit a serious crime will be caught and punished and that this behaviour will not be tolerated in our society. It would serve as a potent deterrent to potential offenders. New South Wales communities deserve to know that they are protected by the NSW Police Force from perpetrators of violent crime, no matter where they are located geographically.

Whilst in a dangerous situation, police should not have to analyse whether they are legally able to defuse the situation by utilising their search powers. They do not need to be hesitating or doubting the situation that they are in. If we want to protect our police so that they can protect us, we must allow them to use their powers in any area at any time. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research advises that in 2023 the NSW Police Force proceeded against 795 persons for assault or robbery with a knife. One can only speculate about the number of knives being carried by perpetrators and going undetected due to our NSW Police Force not having the power to conduct wanding. We can do better than that.

I also call on the New South Wales Labor Government to provide a time line for the introduction of Jack's law in New South Wales. The immediate introduction of the amended law will provide a future where acts of violence have no place in our communities. It is imperative for all of us to support Jack's law and ardently advocate for its effective implementation. By raising awareness about the consequences of violent behaviour and fostering a culture of respect, non-violence in our communities is achievable.

Let us provide the NSW Police Force the powers to conduct wanding searches at their discretion and in a manner that ensures our communities are protected from any further violent attacks. This is about proactive policing that prevents crimes and provides safer communities. Let us honour Jack's memory. Let us protect the community and protect the officers who protect us by giving them the tools to ensure that our communities are safe. If the police Minister were to say to police officers, "I want to give you the powers to wand at any time", I am absolutely certain they would say thank you.

Ms JANELLE SAFFIN (Lismore) (19:08:29):

I speak in support of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation (Knife Crime) Bill 2024, which has been modelled on Jack's law and gives police powers to wand or scan people for knives, in designated areas, without a warrant. There are existing knife offences under the Summary Offences Act 1988 and the Crime Act 1900. The bill will add to powers given to the police to try to ensure community safety. I will say a bit about the existing prohibitions. In the Summary Offences Act it is an offence to have custody of an offensive implement in a public place or school without a reasonable excuse. An offensive implement refers to anything made or adapted for causing injury and anything that is intended by the person who has custody of the implement to injure or menace a person.

Section 11D provides that it is an offence for the parent of a child, where the child is below the age of 18 and commits an offence, to knowingly authorise the child to commit the offence. There are other provisions in both the Summary Offences Act and the Crimes Act for crimes to do with knives. Also, the Criminal Legislation Amendment (Knife Crimes) Act 2023, which commenced last year, doubled the penalties for the offences of possessing or wielding a knife in a public place. Those offences were moved from the Summary Offences Act 1988 to the Crimes Act. I recall I spoke on that at the time. This reform targets the possession of knives further to reduce knife crime and boost the community safety I mentioned.

The first reform in the bill is the introduction of part 4A into the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002. It permits police, with the proper authority, to stop and scan persons using a handheld metal scanner in designated areas without a warrant. It will also amend the Summary Offences Act to increase the maximum penalty for the offence of selling a knife to a child under the age of 16 from 50 penalty units to 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months, or both. That is a significant jump to $11,000. Through the amendments to the Summary Offences Act, it will also prohibit a person from selling a knife to a child aged 16 or 17 without a reasonable excuse. The lawful pursuit of the young person's or child's occupation, education or training falls into the category of a reasonable excuse. The bill will recognise that some people aged 16 or 17 may need a knife for legitimate purposes, particularly students and those in trades. There will be metal detectors and, as I said, it will be a wand or a scan.

It is modelled on Jack's law. The authority for the police will last for 12 hours with an option to extend. Importantly, that gives expression to the community's views. There are people in my community who have been talking about doing this for a while. It will mainly apply in shopping centres and other big, designated areas. As the Premier said at the time, his hope is that these commonsense reforms stop people from taking a knife into the community and prevent some of the devastating outcomes of knife-related violence we have seen in recent months, which members in previous contributions talked about and which gave rise to the bill. With those comments, I commend the bill to the House.

Mr MICHAEL KEMP (Oxley) (19:13:38):

When Michael Krieg woke up in the middle of the night, he did not expect to find three young offenders breaking into his South West Rocks property. He also did not expect one to be armed with a large knife. But would you believe that that incident was not his first encounter? Regional New South Wales is on edge. It is being held at knifepoint. There are many incidents similar to Mr Krieg's. Offenders, young and old, are loitering on our streets in the dead of night, trespassing into homes and inciting fear in our community with knives, and worse—large machetes. I welcome the Minns Labor Government looking to introduce Jack's law into New South Wales legislation. But it is high time there is a proactive approach, not just a reactive, narrowly prescriptive approach to addressing crime. What is proposed in the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024 is fundamentally flawed. If we are serious about making meaningful change that will reduce the use of knives as weapons and increasingly high possession rates, then we need to stop skirting around the edges and draw a hard line in the sand.

The highly trained New South Wales police should be able to wave a non-invasive metal detection wand around an individual, anywhere and at any time. After all, who is out at 3.00 a.m. wearing full-length black clothing with a hood pulled down over their face for a good cause? In my area the residents are afraid in their homes, not in the shopping centre which, in a kneejerk response, has been included in the bill. It is in our streets and homes that we feel unsafe. If a police officer sees an individual out and about in the early hours, in a gang or in unexpected areas, our community demands the officer to take a stance. As a legislature, members in this place need to stand up and represent the wider community.

The bill permits our law enforcement officers to stop and scan a person with a wand in a designated area. Those designated areas include public transport stations, shopping precincts, major sporting venues and other public places, in which a relevant offence has occurred in the past 12 months. We have become used to non‑invasive scanning at football and other sporting venues, as well as airports and concerts. So what do we have to fear? Mr Krieg was not in a public transport station, shopping precinct or sporting facility when three young offenders wielded a knife. It was in his home, a space that is supposed to provide a sense of security and comfort.

It is tragic that we have witnessed high-profile knife attacks in Sydney. My sincerest sympathies remain with families and friends still impacted by those horrific events. But the New South Wales statistics speak loud and clear. In fact, the Attorney General stated the same: The number of prosecutions for violent knife crime is decreasing, but knife possession remains steadily high. If that is the case, why won't the Attorney General fight for our community and strengthen the laws? It is not enough to introduce Jack's law with the clause that only designated areas warrant a search, only if the commissioner or a delegate signs off on it and only for 12 hours. It is not okay.

In Oxley, knife crimes and knife possessions occur during the night in the homes of innocent people. In fact, since the regional crime inquiry started, I have been sent CCTV footage showing offenders lurking around homes, trying to break in using knives and other devices. I have seen people with balaclavas pulled over their heads or hoodies pulled down, and all too often I have seen CCTV footage of a knife or a machete. It is not okay. If a police patrol car is on duty throughout the evening and officers see someone somewhere they do not expect, they should be able to stop anyone walking along the street to conduct a scan, in any place. That could be one less house terrorised by armed break and enters, one less knife on the street and one less victim. Recently I attended local community forums at South West Rocks and Nambucca Heads as part of a regional crime inquiry community meeting, which brought hundreds of my constituents to the table to discuss this crisis and gauge what is happening.

During that meeting I handed out a survey posing two questions: Have you been impacted by crime and what solutions do you want to see? It should come as no surprise that knife crime reared its ugly head. In response to the survey 27 per cent of South West Rocks residents mentioned they had been assaulted physically or verbally, which included incidents with knives. A large percentage of residents are calling for knife reforms, while 56 per cent are calling for legislative, policing and judicial reforms. We are presented with a unique opportunity to create change and guarantee our communities the safety they deserve. But we cannot selectively choose where is safe and where is not, especially because anywhere could be unsafe, including homes. My Coalition colleagues have indicated they will move an amendment to remove the restrictive designated area clause. Police need the ability to use metal detection wands in any place at any time.

Afflicted communities deserve assurance and peace of mind. It is no longer acceptable to put the civil liberties of the attacker, the criminal or the agitator before law-abiding citizens. I will never accept that it is okay to water down our laws to protect the assailant over the population. Chris Minns, Michael Daley and Yasmin Catley have the power to improve and strengthen these laws right now. They can do better for our community safety. It starts with giving police the power to do their job. Jack's law needs to be in place in New South Wales. It needs to allow police to search any member of the public for knives and metal weapons anywhere and anytime.

Mr JUSTIN CLANCY (Albury) (19:21:09):

I welcome the opportunity to speak in debate on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. Firstly, I acknowledge the victims of knife crimes of recent days and their families. I also acknowledge the advocacy of Brett and Belinda Beasley, who lost their 17-year-old son, Jack, on the Gold Coast in 2017. I thank the Attorney General and Minister for Police and Counter-terrorism for introducing this bill to the House. It is important for us to have this debate and to consider how to strengthen safety in our communities. I recognise that this bill is largely modelled on the Police Powers and Responsibilities (Jack’s Law) Amendment Bill 2023, which was passed in the Queensland Parliament last year. Western Australia is introducing its own legislation, which will strengthen the Queensland model.

That is the crux of the debate. We all want safer communities. We are all looking at ways to strengthen safety in our communities. The model proposed by the New South Wales Government is very much a replication of the existing Queensland model. I am not for one moment going to debate the appropriateness or otherwise of the Queensland legislation, but we need to ensure that whatever legislation is passed in New South Wales is appropriate in the New South Wales context. In that sense I agree with some comments made by other members in this place. The member for Winston Hills said that this bill, in its current form, hobbles the intent. He spoke about some of the issues and challenges, including new section 45F, which deals with the declaration of designated areas. It states:

A senior police officer may, by written instrument, declare any of the following places to be a designated area—

(a)public transport stations,

(b)shopping precincts,

(c)sporting venues,

(d)other public places prescribed by the regulations ...

The member for Winston Hills also spoke about the challenges in new section 45G, which deals with the circumstances in which a place may be declared a designated area. It states:

A senior police officer may declare a place referred to in section 45F to be a designated area only if—

(a)any of the following has occurred at the place in the previous 12 months—

(i)at least 1 offence committed by a person armed with a knife or other weapon,

(ii)at least 1 serious indictable offence involving violence against a person,

(iii)more than 1 offence of possessing a knife or prohibited weapon in a public place or school …

The member for Winston Hills also spoke about new section 45I, which deals with the period during which a declaration of a designated area is in force. It states:

The declaration of a designated area remains in force for the period, not more than 12 hours, specified in the declaration.

As the member for Winston Hills said, those provisions all act as barriers to the intent of the legislation. The member for Oxley spoke of incidents and challenges in his electorate. There are limitations in the current bill. We can do better. I support the amendments that the shadow Attorney General has indicated he will move during the consideration in detail stage. I acknowledge the contribution of the member for Orange. As he said, at the end of the day this legislation is one element of a whole-of-government approach. We need to look at education. We need to look at early intervention. We need to look at intersectionality with mental health. I acknowledge the contribution of the member for Castle Hill, who spoke of the need to strike the right balance between the protection of communities and civil liberties.

At the end of the day we all understand the importance of community safety when it comes to this issue. Many members have spoken about the need to strengthen community safety. As the member for Bathurst said, the bill as it stands does not remove the risk; it only shifts the location of the risk. It is important that we strengthen community safety. I welcome the bill, but I also acknowledge its shortcomings in its current form. I support the amendments foreshadowed by the shadow Attorney General.

Mr KEVIN ANDERSON (Tamworth) (19:26:27):

I support the amendments the shadow Attorney General indicated he will move to the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. Firstly, I will focus on police resourcing in the Tamworth electorate. Rising crime in the Tamworth electorate is a significant problem. Combatting crime and keeping our communities safe is of the utmost importance. Today five police officers were injured while pursuing a stolen vehicle. They ended up in hospital. There is a serious issue with the lack of police officers available to deal with the problem of rising crime in my area. Statistics clearly show that there has been an increase in crime in regional and rural areas not only in the Oxley police district but also across New South Wales. It is clear that police cannot arrest their way out of this problem. There needs to be a whole-of-government and community response.

Overall, there are fewer police officers in regional New South Wales than there are in metropolitan Sydney. That needs to be rectified as a matter of priority. The Country Mayors Association of NSW highlighted than we have significantly fewer police than our city cousins. As a whole, New South Wales has fewer police officers per head of population than Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Our police officers are already facing an incredible workload, with only one police officer per 467 New South Wales residents. In a recent statement the chairman of the Country Mayors Association of NSW stated:

We knew crime was increasing, but we looked to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR] data to clarify the situation. We were shocked to learn that as well as the alarming incident counts in regional New South Wales, the rate of incidents per 100,000 people was, in some cases, horrifying when compared to metropolitan figures. Up to 90% of crimes including vehicle theft, breaking and entering, sexual assault and domestic assault are happening here, in our regional communities.

Knife crime is often associated with that. We need more police and they need the resources to do their job. At the moment, they are fighting crime with one hand behind their backs. Let us give them the resources they need to keep our community safe, while getting more police on the ground to help them do their work. That is why we support Jack's law, but not only in designated areas. It does not make sense. This is a non-invasive search.

We walk through a metal detector when we pass through airport security. How many times have we seen someone go through a metal detector at an airport and be pulled up and then searched because they might have a metal hip, a metal knee or something metal in their body? It is a non-invasive search. It is no different than a wand, which does the same job. The amendment that will be put forward by the Opposition is to remove the restrictive designated areas. Police need to move the metal-detecting wands at any place and at any time. Jack's law needs to be in place. We all agree on that. But police officers should be given the resources and powers they need to keep our community safe anywhere, at any time. I support the amendments foreshadowed by the shadow Attorney General.

Mr RICHIE WILLIAMSON (Clarence) (19:31:07):

I contribute to the debate on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024 and sincerely thank the Attorney General and the police Minister for introducing it to the House. I, like the member for Tamworth and other members in this place, support Jack's law. But it does not offer the maximum protection my community in regional New South Wales deserves. I am here also to reflect on why this bill is before the Parliament, and I again offer my sincere condolences to those who have suffered because of the horrific actions of a few. The Parliament should always do everything possible to keep our community safe. There is no question about that. I believe we all stand by those principles. We should do everything possible to keep our people safe.

The bill does not go far enough, particularly in the bush. I will outline in a couple of minutes why I believe it does not go far enough. Firstly, members will understand that in regional New South Wales we simply do not have public transport stations—my electorate has two train stations—and we do not have any major sporting facilities, but we do have sports grounds and sports complexes. The crimes in my electorate are not happening in those locations; they are happening in the streets, in homes, at the front doors of homes and at night. Members of my community are putting up with the most difficult situation on a nightly basis. I recently held a meeting of crime victims in my electorate. One elderly lady in the town of Coraki has had her home invaded seven times, once by intruders with a knife. That is where these attacks are happening. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this legislation will not be enacted to cover her particular situation.

The designated areas are too fine. If we need maximum protection for our community, we need to ensure that wanding laws, Jack's law, operate anywhere at any time in all of New South Wales. Imagine us having a debate on random breath testing or drug testing being subject to the same restrictions and conditions. My community will accept the law anywhere at any time. I assume that these laws are fit for Queensland, but I want to make sure that they are also fit for all of New South Wales—in my electorate, in the cities, in the big towns and in regional communities. I fully support the NSW Police Force and what it does in my electorate and the magnificent work it is doing across New South Wales. It deserves our support and I believe it has our support. Again, I call on the Government to broaden the scope of these laws, to ensure that all of New South Wales and every single person in every single location is protected. I will end where I started. I believe that our community deserves the Government's maximum protection and I urge the Government to consider the recommendations and amendments to the law.

Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (19:36:01):

I contribute to debate on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. We know that knife crime is insidious. We need to do everything we can to reduce knife-related crime across our State. This year alone we have experienced a number of horrific events involving violent knife crimes, notably the incident at Bondi Westfield. Knife crime has been a growing concern in many parts of our country and New South Wales is no exception. We have witnessed disturbing incidents involving knives, ranging from petty crimes to violent assaults. These occurrences have not only resulted in physical harm but also instilled a sense of fear and insecurity within our communities.

This bill follows similar legislation introduced in Queensland, commonly known as Jack's law. Statistics from Queensland showed that more than 500 weapons were seized during the first year of Jack's law being in operation, which is a staggering number. Whilst every knife on the street does not equate to a violent crime, the risk of violent crime and physical harm can be attributed to the potential use of those knives. The bill will permit police without a warrant to stop people in designated areas and scan them with metal-detecting wands. These designated areas must be public transport stations, shopping precincts, major sporting venues and other public spaces at which a relevant offence has occurred in the last 12 months.

To ensure the effective and ethical application of metal-detecting wanding, it is essential that our police officers receive comprehensive education and training. That includes not only technical training on the use of metal detectors but also extensive instruction on the legal frameworks governing searches, the importance of our civil liberties, and best practices for engaging with diverse communities. Continuous professional development and refresher courses should be mandated to keep officers updated on the latest protocols and technologies. Proper education will empower our police to carry out their duties with professionalism, sensitivity and a deep understanding of their responsibilities and the rights of the individuals they serve.

In considering and discussing the bill and noting the incredible importance of safety against knife crimes in our community, I raise the challenge in finding a balance between enhancing public safety and protecting civil liberties. The presence of metal-detecting wanding in public spaces can impact the freedom of movement of individuals. We need to ensure that issues such as privacy infringements are seriously considered when we cast legislation such as this. Wanding searches could make individuals feel that their personal space is being violated, especially in public places. This can also often lead to a sense of discomfort and distrust towards law enforcement, which is a state we do not want to occur in New South Wales.

People might avoid certain areas or events to evade potential searches, which could lead to a restriction in the ability of people to freely navigate public spaces. Those people are law-abiding individuals. I have no concerns about whether or not people who want to carry illegal knives or use illegal knives have their liberties impinged upon. My concern is for law-abiding individuals who feel that they cannot go freely about in public spaces. That can affect their quality of life and their participation in community activities, and that covers areas such as shopping centres. The basic need of individuals to access retail premises, whether that be for food or other necessary daily items, must be protected. The provisions of the bill must not prevent, prohibit or discourage people from going about their daily lives in public.

There is also a risk that operations at designated places could disproportionately affect certain demographic groups so there is a need to ensure that searches are conducted equitably and without bias to prevent alienating specific communities who, in many instances, have historically felt targeted by police or who experience higher rates of police searches or incarceration. By establishing clear guidelines, ensuring transparency and accountability, engaging across the community, regularly reviewing and evaluating the laws and ensuring proportionality and necessity, a balance can be struck between enhancing public safety and protecting and preserving our civil liberties.

Across the globe there is concern about the balance between ensuring public safety and meeting the threats of risk and harm in our societies and ensuring that individuals rights are preserved and protected. Through the measures we can achieve a future where individuals can live, work and thrive without the threat of knife‑related violence while also maintaining their fundamental rights and freedoms. In supporting this legislation I ask the Government to ensure that it always maintains that balance throughout the operations of this legislation.

Mr ADAM CROUCH (Terrigal) (19:41:16):

I make a brief contribution to the debate on the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. From the outset I echo the words of almost all members in this Chamber and offer the deepest condolences of all the people across the Central Coast to those who have been affected by the unnerving and scary rise of knife crime across New South Wales. It is unacceptable in modern society that people believe that they can behave in that way and not be held accountable for their actions.

I commend the Government for reacting to the rise in knife crime and for introducing this bill. I have had the pleasure of working with the Attorney General on many things before and I know he takes all things into account. He would have been listening intently to the debate in this Chamber about this piece of legislation but, as so many of my other regional colleagues have highlighted, sadly the bill does not go far enough. It needs to enable the outstanding men and women of the NSW Police Force the unfettered ability to capture people who are going to commit knife crimes. One of the insidious things about knife crime is the random nature with which it occurs. The unexpected randomness of the events that have occurred in New South Wales is stark and confronting. It is difficult to put a net around all of the perpetrators. Being able to wand anywhere, anytime sends a clear message to potential perpetrators, wherever they may be in New South Wales, that that sort of activity will not be tolerated.

The men and women of the Police Force need to be unrestricted in the way in which they search individuals—in a non-invasive way. I have listened to almost all the speeches given in this Chamber with the exception of The Greens. All members realise that this is a non-invasive process where a wand is waved around an individual. As many members have said before me, it is a process that people have sadly had to accept as a natural part of life. Every time people travel internationally or nationally, they go through a scanning process which is no longer conducted with a wand; people have to stand in a booth and go through a complete scan.

When people go to major sporting events, whether in Sydney or regional areas, the level of safety at those events often requires security guards, who are nowhere near as qualified as the exceptionally well‑trained men and women of the NSW Police Force, to conduct wand searches of people entering those grounds to ensure that everyone is safe. While I commend the Attorney General for bringing the legislation to the House, it needs to go further. Ample examples have been given by regional MPs and MPs who have been serving police officers. The member for Winston Hills, the member for Goulburn, the member for—

Mr Alister Henskens:

Castle Hill.


The member for Castle Hill is another example. There are quite a few. A number of former serving police officers have explained why the bill needs to go further to release the shackles and not hobble the NSW Police Force when it comes to doing necessary wand searches—a non-invasive search. Another issue is the bureaucratic red tape around getting approval to do wand searches. The member for Winston Hills highlighted the fact that only a senior police officer of the rank of assistant commissioner can give approval under the bill. Many of us have spent time with our police officers. I have had the privilege and pleasure of spending time with the police officers of the Brisbane Water and the Tuggerah Lakes police districts. They do a great job but the frontline police officers are the constables, the senior constables and the sergeants. It is a long way up the chain, through detective and detective inspector to the assistant commissioner to get approval for wanding.

The member for Winston Hills also pointed out that the wanding areas would be displayed on a website, which would literally highlight to potential perpetrators where wanding could occur. Young people are savvy when it comes to social media; they know where to look and where to find things. Realistically, people need to realise that if they carry a knife illegally, they could be stopped anywhere, anytime and be wanded. I recall another member saying that this discussion would not be happening if the topic was breathalysers or drug testing. It is broadcasted on radio and television that anywhere, anytime a person could be pulled over by a New South Wales police officer to do a breathalyser test or a drug test. The broadcasts do not say, "By the way, we will only be here, here and here between these times. We will advertise it on social media. It will be up on the website so we are giving people a forewarning not to do it in those areas." It defeats the purpose of the deterrent effect that wanding people would have. It is so important that those shackles are released so they do not hobble the NSW Police Force.

I commend the shadow Attorney General for these amendments because our police need to have every tool in their arsenal. A clear message needs to be sent to perpetrators or potential perpetrators that if they carry knives illegally in New South Wales, they face incredibly serious consequences and harsh penalties, and rightfully so. The people of New South Wales say no to that type of behaviour. Having designated areas restricts the ability of the police to utilise the tools that they are being given. Before an area can be declared a designated area, there has to be at least one offence committed by a person armed with a knife or other weapon within a 12-month period. It is the randomness of knife crime that makes it so insidious.

Random knife crimes do not happen over and over again in the same shopping centre or the same street. It is the street crime and people having their houses invaded and being held up at knife point. The provisions in the bill will not allow a police officer to randomly stop someone in the street in the evening and wand them. Those shackles need to be released. A place may be declared a designated area if there is at least one serious indictable offence involving violence against a person or there is more than one offence of possessing a knife or prohibited weapon in a public place or school. These shackles are preventing police officers from using wanding as a deterrent or, even more importantly, catching and prosecuting criminals who believe it is their right to carry a knife and commit a knife crime. Those areas need to be expanded. The bill provides:

A senior police officer—

who must be an assistant commissioner—

may, by written instrument, declare any of the following places to be a designated area—

(a)public transport stations,

(b)shopping precincts,

(c)sporting venues,

(d)other public places prescribed by the regulations, including, for example, places at which the following are being or to be held—

(i)special events,

(ii)events that are part of or support the night-time economy.

Nowhere does the bill talk about the rise in street crime that is occurring right across New South Wales. I say to the Attorney General that this good piece of legislation can be better. As legislators, we have the ability to improve it. Bills are brought into this place and amended on a regular basis, on advice. I do not want to see what I saw this evening from The Greens, who proposed to water down the bill and make it completely useless to the police when it comes to stopping the perpetrators of knife crime.

I congratulate the Attorney General on bringing the bill to the House. Many members from regional areas, especially on the side of the House, are seeing a rise in knife crime. We can now say to the excellent men and women of the NSW Police Force that we will give them the legislation and the tools so they can wand anywhere, any time. As I have said before, it sends a very clear message to would-be perpetrators—not on the watch of the NSW Police Force will they be allowed to do so.

I congratulate the outstanding police men and women of the Brisbane Water Police and Tuggerah Lakes Police, who do an exceptional job every day keeping the community of the Central Coast safe. They do a truly outstanding job. I have had the privilege and pleasure of spending a night out with them seeing firsthand what they do. We need to back them up and give them the legislation to enable them to use the tools to maximum effect. That is what our communities expect of us as legislators. The Attorney General now has the opportunity to support the proposed amendments and give the bill the teeth it needs to stop and prevent knife crime in New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House, with the proposed amendments.

Mr MICHAEL DALEY (MaroubraAttorney General) (19:51:22):

— In reply: I begin by thanking the members who have taken part in the debate. I thank the member for Wahroonga, and shadow Attorney General; the member for Swansea, and police Minister; the member for Dubbo; and the member for Prospect, and Parliamentary Secretary. I also thank the members representing the electorates of Bathurst, Mount Druitt, Newtown, Penrith, Winston Hills, Orange, Coffs Harbour, Castle Hill, Goulburn, Lismore, Oxley, Albury, Clarence, North Shore and Terrigal.

The bill represents the next legislative instalment in the Government's quest to drive down knife crime in New South Wales, following on from the doubling of penalties for the possession of knives in public places and schools that we carried through the Parliament last year. The bill targets the public possession of knives and the clear risk they pose to the community. As I said in my second reading speech, knife possession is the necessary precursor to violent knife crime. While, fortunately, the number of prosecutions for violent knife crime is decreasing, knife possession charges remain steadily high and reoffending is common. We have all recently borne witness to the devasting outcomes of knife violence, and the measures in the bill are designed to tackle knife crime and to give police the powers they need in the places they need them most.

I address some issues raised in debate by members in the House. Regarding the expansion of police powers impeding on personal rights and liberties, the reforms will give police improved tools to quickly detect concealed knives and weapons, and to take action before a potential perpetrator has the chance to use them. In response to the concerns raised by the members for Wahroonga, Dubbo and Goulburn about the limitations on the proposed wanding powers, the ability to exercise the metal detection powers in the bill has to be balanced against the impact on the freedoms of individuals in our community and in our society, including the impact on people who are engaging in completely lawful activities like catching a train home from work or taking their kids to the shops.

That is crucial, and the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 is founded on those considerations. The powers in the bill will allow police to stop any person in a designated area without a warrant, require them to submit to a scan and, when asked, require them to produce any item that might be setting a metal detection scanner off. The criteria for declaring an area as a designated area, the safeguards on the use of the powers in the bill and the statutory review provision with a three-year sunset clause strike the right balance between providing police with powers that will protect the community from knife crime and upholding fundamental common law rights and freedoms held by every individual.

The shadow Attorney General and member for Wahroonga raised questions about whether Government members trust the NSW Police Force. We do, and we listen to their advice. Perhaps the Opposition should as well. The bill was developed in close consultation with the NSW Police Force, which provided advice and guidance on all aspects of the bill, particularly on the places where metal detection powers should be available. The bill is about giving police the powers that they need in the places they need them. The people best placed to advise on that are the people within the NSW Police Force who will be using those powers. They have advised on the bill and their advice has guided its development.

I address the comments of the member for Newtown regarding the impact of the reforms on vulnerable communities, in particular First Nations children. To manage any potential risks, an implementation group jointly chaired by the Secretary of the Premier's Department and the Commissioner of Police has been established, with representatives from key government agencies and the Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations. The purpose of the group is to guide the development of operational procedures for the use of handheld metal scanners so it aligns with the Government's ongoing commitments under Closing the Gap.

In response to the comments of the member for North Shore relating to the correct implementation of the reforms, New South Wales police will also facilitate training arrangements to ensure handheld scanners and associated operational guidelines are ready for use once the reforms commence. I also note that the handheld metal scanner powers will be reviewed after two years and will sunset after three years. The review will consider all aspects of the new powers, including data on the use of the powers. That will assist in determining whether the powers have had a disproportionate impact on any parts of the community. I should not have to say this, but I will: Comments that attack our police, who work tirelessly to keep our community safe from harm, are not warranted.

Finally, I respond to an issue raised by the Legislation Review Committee. Schedule 1 to the bill introduces a new offence into section 11F of the Summary Offences Act 1988 that prohibits a person from selling a knife to a child who is 16 or 17 years of age without a reasonable excuse. The maximum penalty will be 100 penalty units—$11,000—imprisonment for 12 months or both. Although a custodial penalty has been proposed for a strict liability offence, that is appropriate given the significant risk posed to the public by knife crime. The courts will still have discretion and the existing principles for sentencing when determining the sentence, which will be determined by the specific circumstances. The danger posed by the possession or use of knives is unacceptable. The community expects us to do more, and the bill does that in a sensible, practical and measured way. I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):

The question is that this bill be now read a second time.

Motion agreed to.

Consideration in detail requested by Mr Alister Henskens.

Consideration in Detail

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):

By leave: I will deal with the bill in one group of clauses and schedules. The question is that clauses 1 and 2 and schedules 1 and 2 be agreed to.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Wahroonga) (19:59:00):

By leave: I move Opposition amendments Nos 1 to 13 on sheet c2024-082B in globo:

Designated areas

No. 1

"in designated areas"

Page 3, Schedule 1, proposed Part 4A heading, lines 5 and 6. Omit .


No. 2


Page 3, Schedule 1, proposed section 45D, line 8. Omit . Insert instead .


No. 3

Page 3, Schedule 1, proposed section 45D, lines 10–31. Omit all words on the lines.

Meaning of "public transport station"

No. 4

Pages 3 and 4, Schedule 1, proposed section 45E, line 34 on page 3 to line 14 on page 4. Omit all words on the lines.

Designated areas

No. 5

Pages 4 and 5, Schedule 1, proposed Division 2, line 15 on page 4 to line 10 on page 5. Omit all words on the lines.

Designated areas

No. 6

Page 5, Schedule 1, proposed Division 3, heading, line 11. Omit all words on the line. Insert instead—

Division 2Power to scan persons

Power to scan anywhere

No. 7

"in designated areas"

Page 5, Schedule 1, proposed section 45K, heading, line 12. Omit .

Power to scan anywhere

No. 8

Page 5, Schedule 1, proposed section 45K, line 13. Omit "(1)".

Power to scan anywhere

No. 9

Page 5, Schedule 1, proposed section 45K(1), line 13. Omit "in a designated area".

Power to scan anywhere

No. 10

Page 5, Schedule 1, proposed section 45K(2) and note, lines 15–21. Omit all words on the lines.

Power to scan anywhere

No. 11

Page 5, Schedule 1, proposed section 45L, lines 22–38. Omit all words on the lines.

Power to scan anywhere

No. 12

Page 5, Schedule 1, proposed section 45M(1)(a), lines 41 and 42. Omit "in a designated area".

Power to scan anywhere

No. 13

Page 6, Schedule 1, proposed section 45M(2), note, lines 4 and 5. Omit all words on the lines.

I move these amendments in globo because they will essentially achieve a common outcome, which is to remove the geographical and time restrictions on the use of the wanding powers. If the amendments are agreed to, they will allow the Police Force to engage in these non-invasive searches at any time, anywhere, in any place. In the legislation that has been brought forward by the Attorney General, as members would be aware from the second reading debate, there are circumstances in which a place may be declared a designated area under section 45G—that is, offences of a particular kind have to have occurred in the previous 12 months. Under section 45F, there are designated places where wanding can take place. Under section 45I, once a designated area has been declared as a lawful place where wanding can take place, it can take place for only 12 hours under the declaration. There is a time limit on the wanding powers.

I was intrigued—and it is not often that I am intrigued—to hear the Attorney General say in his speech in reply that those restrictions were drafted in consultation with the police, as if that was a justification for them. Blow me down, I have a copy of the Queensland bill. It has all the same restrictions, modified for circumstances to do with New South Wales. It is almost identical to the bill that the Attorney General has brought forward, which means that somehow the police must have been channelling whoever drafted the Queensland legislation—according to the Attorney General—and just happened to give exactly the same advice.

The reality is that, as with random breath testing, there is in truth no reason to place those restrictions. The Attorney General said that the balancing of freedoms against the powers for the police meant that there were criteria, safeguards and statutory reviews. The Opposition does not seek to change any of the safeguards or the statutory reviews with these amendments. All the Opposition seeks is to change the criteria so that it is more like, for example, random breath testing, or more like what occurs out in the real world with security guards. If one wants to go to a play, or a sporting event, or the Sydney Royal Easter Show, or wants to board an aircraft, or wants to enter Parliament House—this very building—then one is screened. It happens every day.

I have been a lawyer for 37 years. For at least the past 25 years, every time a person goes into a courthouse, they go through a screening process. It is now becoming so commonplace that the kinds of restrictions that these amendments seek to remove—which no doubt were mandated by the left wing of the Queensland Labor Party when it introduced Jack's law—do not need to be part of the Attorney General's plagiarism of that bill. We can actually have a New South Wales bill. We do not need to plagiarise what goes on up in Queensland; we can have our own bill. We can have much freer powers for the NSW Police Force. Not one word has been said in the debate by anyone speaking on behalf of the Government as to why the Police Force should not be given the unlimited powers that these amendments would give them.

I encourage a sensible approach, in the public interest, for the benefit of the community, to giving unlimited powers to the police. It is entirely reasonable. If the legislation was for an invasive strip search, of course the Opposition would not be suggesting this, but it is actually a wanding process that does not involve touching a person at all. It does not require a person to do anything other than present themselves and allow a wand to be put around them. It happens every day to people coming into this building. It happens every day in the community. We need to be sensible, in the public interest, and take away the restrictions.

The police can be trusted to use these powers appropriately. They have all sorts of internal reviews. There is a standing royal commission into any improper exercise of police powers called the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, or the LECC, which was created after the Wood royal commission into the NSW Police Force. Let us get real. I encourage members of the House to support the amendments.

Mr MICHAEL DALEY (MaroubraAttorney General) (20:05:58):

— With the greatest of respect to the shadow Attorney General, the Government opposes his amendment. I will refer to it as an amendment, singular, even though 13 amendments have been moved in globo. The effect of the amendment would be to allow police to exercise the metal detection powers inherent in the bill anywhere, at any time. The ability to exercise the metal detection powers has to be balanced, as I said in my speech in reply, against the freedoms of and impact on all individuals in our community. That includes the impact on people who are engaging in completely lawful activities—I will use the same example I gave just a minute ago—such as catching a train home from work or taking their kids to the shops.

The use of the powers should also be targeted at those areas where police consider they will be most effective in detecting and deterring knife crime, which is exactly what the Government's bill does. That is crucial, as the powers in the bill will allow police officers to stop any person in a designated area, require them to submit to a scan and, when asked, to produce any item that might be setting a metal detection scanner off. The bill then permits detaining the person for as long as is reasonably necessary to exercise the powers. That will all be done without a warrant.

The risk-based approach in the Government's bill strikes the right balance between providing police with powers that will protect the community from knife crime and upholding the fundamental commonweal rights and freedoms of citizens. Under the Government's bill, the areas that may be declared as designated areas are public transport stations, shopping precincts, sporting venues and other public places prescribed by the regulations. That includes, for example, places that host special events and events that are part of or support the night-time economy. Those places were chosen in close consultation with the NSW Police Force. Yes, they mirror Jack's law in Queensland. There is no conspiracy there. Someone can give advice that accords with advice that other legislatures have adopted. That is not exactly rocket science. The NSW Police Force is best placed to know where the powers will need to be exercised.

The purpose of the metal detection powers is to give the police an additional capability in the places they say they need them most. In order for a declaration to be made over one of those areas, certain criteria must be met, including that a relevant offence involving violence, a knife or other weapons was committed at that place in the past 12 months. A senior police officer also has to consider that the use of hand-held scanners is likely to be effective in deterring or detecting the commission of an offence involving a knife or other weapon. They have to consider factors including the effect that the use of the hand-held scanners may have on lawful activity in the area. Those are commonsense safeguards that target the use of the powers to where police think they will be effective. They also ensure that consideration is given to the imposition that the exercise of the powers may cause on the completely lawful activities of people going about their business in public places.

The bill also allows for additional places to be declared as designated areas by regulation, which is not provided for in Jack's law in Queensland. It means that further areas can become designated areas where metal detector powers can be used, with the important safeguard of the oversight of the Parliament. That flexibility is already built into the Government's bill. In practice, it enables the outcome sought by the Opposition amendments, with the important difference that there are practical and reasonable safeguards in place—including, importantly, the oversight of this place—regarding the addition of further places where metal detector powers can be exercised. The Government's bill is sensible, measured and targeted to ensure that police have the powers they need in the places they need them most. It would be inappropriate for those powers to be able to be exercised anywhere in the State at any time on anyone going about their lawful business, with no limit. The Government opposes the amendments.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Wahroonga) (20:10:20):

When I come into this building, I am going about my lawful business. When I am in my vehicle and I get pulled over for a random breath test, I am going about my lawful business. When I go into a stadium to watch a sporting event, I am going about my lawful business. We need to get real. The horse has completely bolted on the argument that a short search with an electronic device is somehow a great impediment when weighed against the important issue of the personal safety of the community. The criteria within the bill is like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. The fact that an event has already happened means that the prevention that the bill is supposed to provide is retrospective, rather than being proactive and trying to stop those unfortunate crimes from occurring.

Regrettably, I do not believe the Attorney General has said anything other than how he now wants to abolish all of the other circumstances in which people are searched or are required to submit to a random breath test when going about their lawful business. He cannot have one and then argue that another, which is what the amendments would provide, is a huge incursion upon personal liberty. Let us get real. Let us give the police the tools they need to do their job and prevent serious crime in the community.

Mr MICHAEL DALEY (MaroubraAttorney General) (20:12:18):

— I make a very brief, hopefully final, contribution to the debate. The shadow Minister concluded by saying, "Let's get real and give the police the tools they need." If any independent witness to the debate thinks that there is real and live contention here, I say that there is not. The police have not asked for the powers that the Opposition is seeking in its amendments. The Government takes advice from the police, not the Opposition, in the formulation of these sorts of laws, and they have not asked for those powers.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):

The member for Wahroonga has moved Opposition amendments Nos 1 to 13 on sheet c2024-082B. The question is that the amendments be agreed to.

The House divided.




Amendments negatived.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):

The question is that clauses 1 and 2 and schedules 1 and 2 be agreed to.

Clauses 1 and 2 and schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Third Reading


I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Motion agreed to.

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