Sentencing (Suspended and Community Based Custodial Sentences) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

I was referring to the opposition's foreshadowed amendment, which persists in attempting to amend section 71 even further (and differently, really) than the government's proposed tightening of the application of this home detention position. With that, they had added to it an acknowledgement that there is an exception that needs to be taken into account, namely, that those who are engaged in young love—usually young teenagers—will, under the government's model, have some protection and be able to be considered differently if there is a three-year age gap between them.

However, clearly there are circumstances in which the conduct of even one of these young people could be reprehensible and would need to not attract the exception that otherwise would apply. Obviously, we can canvass that in committee, but it is something that just highlights how inappropriate that amendment could be.

There is a foreshadowed third amendment, which arises in relation to a matter raised in a case pending before the court, as to what law should apply in sentencing. It is now under review. It seems to be a proposed amendment dealing with a possible interpretation that may come from a case that is currently before the courts. In relation to that, I would like to say that I think it is important that, if there is a matter that needs to be dealt with arising out of court determinations, obviously the parliament needs to be prepared to act on that. At the moment, it is a hypothetical.

I am advised that, in relation to an attempt to progress an amendment in the form that is proposed, which I accept, even without hearing submissions from the opposition, is likely to be presented on a bona fide basis of attempting to avert a potential difficulty, what would be better is that we ask the Solicitor-General between the houses to consider whether such an amendment to deal with a possible problem can be validly made and not just create another problem. If it is the case, then I would undertake to bring that matter back before the parliament in the Legislative Council. We do not want to hold up this legislation, nor do I want to quell the enthusiasm of the opposition if they come up with a bright idea.

I think I know what they are trying to achieve here. I think it is premature. I think it is a matter that still needs to be investigated. I undertake to refer this particular amendment and the issue generally to the Solicitor-General between the houses, but in the meantime, for obvious reasons, we would not support the amendment going through at this point, particularly if it is going to be ultra vires.

Several members mentioned the victims in the Deboo case. I have made public statements and statements in here about the courageous contribution that one of the victims in particular has made as a result of him making public statements and being available for consultation, not only to members of the opposition but to me and another member of the government, to try to make sure that we are doing the best we can.

I think it is an exceptional circumstance, but a very welcome circumstance, when victims of such acts of perpetrated violence and exploitation of children are able to grow up to be fully functioning decent human beings who have successful lives and have partners and families of their own. We see victims who, especially as children, have been victimised, but they are able to reach past that and become significant contributing members of our community. It is a delight to see because, I have to say, it is the exception.

Whilst that is the case, I want to place on record the government's and my appreciation in particular for his full and frank discussions and for making himself available to ensure that his and his brother's circumstances are front and centre in our considerations as legislators. That has been valued. I have appreciated his public endorsement that it is important to get these things right and that therefore a comprehensive assessment, which has now identified some inconsistencies that we are now attempting to remedy, is the way to go. We certainly feel that is the case and therefore some careful consideration has been undertaken.

Nevertheless, I place on the record that, although a lot of water has gone under the bridge on this matter, there will be more circumstances where we need to address something fairly expeditiously, or where we have highlighted an inefficiency, or where that exposes another weakness. From time to time, as a parliament we will need to convene and be available to accommodate that.

For what it is worth, there were occasions outside of the house, when we were in opposition, when the then government, and particularly the attorney-general, came to us to say that there had been a decision in the High Court or some such forum that had challenged the validity of what we had done previously, there had been a national royal commission recommending X and we needed to act quickly, or someone was to be released from custody, so he needed to be able to action some statutory reform quickly. We accepted responsibility as the opposition to be available, to be briefed immediately and then to support the quick passage of legislation.

I do not think for one moment that just by being a new government, or being on top of this issue, there will not be occasions in the future when we need to act, and we have a responsibility to the public to do so. In any event, can I just say, in the course of this debate, that I am very proud that we have been able to act to deal with the National Redress Scheme, the abolition of the three-year time limit, to ensure that we give those who have been victims in cases such as this, which have been the catalyst for this legislation, an opportunity to seek some financial compensation. Other matters, of course, we will take up in due course.