Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 9 Hansard (5 September) . . Page.. 2852..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
It is commendable that Canberrans will now have access to such a scheme and that people convicted in 1990 will be able to take immediate advantage of it. Amongst the provisions, the bill provides that the person is not required to disclose information about the conviction; questions about the person's criminal history refer only to convictions that are not spent; in applying any act or statutory instrument to the person, references to convictions are only to those convictions not spent; and a reference to the person's character does not allow spent convictions to be taken into account. These beneficial consequences are limited as there are a large number of exemptions to the scheme and, quite appropriately, some offences, such as sexual offences, never become spent.
As an aside, Mr Speaker, it is interesting to compare this bill with the Attorney's Crimes (Forensic Procedures) Bill 2000. In that bill the Attorney regards a serious offences as one that carries a sentence of more than 12 months, though I did hear the Attorney this morning on ABC radio refer again to the fact that a serious offence is one that carries a sentence of more than two years, so I do not quite know where the Attorney gets that information or whether or not he understands his own legislation. The effect is that, if convicted of one of those offences, a person would never be free of the threat of being rounded up to give a DNA sample, so there is a very interesting crossover between the Crimes (Forensic Procedures) Bill and spent convictions procedures in relation to the extent to which a person can shrug off their past. In this bill offences carrying a sentence of six months or more are serious, and the effect is that, if convicted, a person would always have to disclose the offence.
Ms Tucker, I understand, is moving an amendment to ensure that persons applying for positions of carers for disabled or elderly persons must always disclose any convictions. The disabled and elderly are a very vulnerable group that deserve as much protection as children. The Labor Party will be supporting Ms Tucker's amendment.
One aspect of the bill that causes concern is that it is not an offence for a law enforcement agency to disclose a spent conviction to another law enforcement agency. Fourteen law enforcement agencies are listed in the definitions, and more can be prescribed by regulation. As many of these agencies exchange data electronically, it is easy to envisage the proliferation of information about a person who may have been convicted only once in their life but is not able to live that aberration down because of this provision. This provision and the wide range of exemptions make it difficult to determine precisely the circumstances in which a convicted person will be able to take advantage of this bill, but on balance the Labor Party supports the bill, believes it is a step in the right direction and believes it is a good first step to allow people who did transgress, particularly when they were young, innocent and perhaps silly, to put their misspent youth or some aberration in relation to the criminal justice system behind them.
The Labor Party commends the Attorney for bringing the legislation forward and will support it.
MS TUCKER (10.38): The Greens will be supporting this bill. The best outcome for the community is that offenders in the criminal justice system do not reoffend but rehabilitate and move on. It is quite counterproductive to continually penalise minor crime offenders and to brand them for their past misdeeds. It certainly does not encourage such offenders to put their past behind them if they are repeatedly required to advise others of these acts.