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Smith: Clean Slate Bill 'Mandate To Lie'

Media Statement
For immediate release
Wednesday, 3 December, 2003

Smith: Clean Slate Bill 'mandate to lie'

United Future justice spokesman Murray Smith has slammed the Government's Clean Slate Bill as a "mandate to lie".

"The bill is without a shadow of doubt saying to people: 'you can lie, but don't worry about it because we'll say it's okay'," Mr Smith, United Future's justice spokesman said in the committee stage debate on the bill in Parliament last night.

He quoted Clause 11(2) of the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Bill: "An eligible individual may answer a question asked of him or her about his or her criminal record by stating that he or she has no criminal record."

"How much more blatant can we get than that?" he asked.

"This bill says it's alright to lie, but the fact is that it's destructive to our society when we legislate for people to lie," he said.

A United Future alternative proposal would achieve the compassionate goal of not having people dogged throughout their working lives by past indiscretions, yet not require dishonesty, Mr Smith said.

"We propose that the law recognises that the clean slate scheme was a privilege that was being given to people because they had maintained a good character record.

"A person would have to apply for a certificate to have his or her convictions expunged. The police would have an opportunity to oppose any application, so that those who had simply been out of the country, and perhaps convicted overseas, or had still remained known to the police, but who had not been recently convicted didn't get a free pass," he said.

To avoid any deception, United Future proposed that employers be restrained from framing questions in such a way that queried whether convictions had been expunged

"That would be a simple matter for employers to implement on their standard employment forms - and is quite in line with some privacy requirements already in place today," Mr Smith said.

"We, as a nation, don't need to and should not go down the path of State-approved lying."


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