Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 June 2010) . . Page.. 2201 ..
I note that the committee issued a further report in response to the government’s response to its initial report, and Mrs Dunne then made the demand that the government should respond to that before the matter was debated. I do not share that view. This becomes a circular process. The scrutiny committee makes a report, the government responds to the report, the scrutiny committee does not agree and makes another report and demands the government respond to that and so on. No, that is not the way the scrutiny process operates.
The government presents the bill, the scrutiny committee looks at the bill and makes comment on it as it sees fit. The government responds to that comment and then members are informed on these matters ahead of the debate. That is the purpose of the scrutiny process. It is not meant to be some alternative to debate in this place on the appropriateness or otherwise of provisions of a particular bill. That is this place’s job.
I do not agree with the approach suggested by Mrs Dunne that, until the scrutiny committee is satisfied, the bill cannot be debated in this place. That is not the job of the scrutiny committee.
I turn to the provisions of the bill itself. As members would be aware, the bill introduces a new enforcement scheme for court-imposed fines and it modernises our fine enforcement scheme process and brings it largely into line with other Australian jurisdictions. The scheme will result in a higher level of recovery of outstanding fines and more flexible options for people experiencing difficulty in paying a fine. The new options also mean that a number of actions that are not currently available can be pursued before the last resort, imprisonment, is considered.
The imposition of a fine is a way of punishing someone who has broken the law. The principles of common law dictate, and the community expects, that the punishment will be administered. If this punishment is not administered, the offender is effectively avoiding that punishment.
There are certain groups, however, that are more susceptible to difficulties in discharging the punishment and that require special treatment. People under the age of 18 are in one of these groups. The government is committed to ensuring that young fine defaulters, that is people who are under the age of 18 at the time the offence for which they were fined was committed, are not treated unfairly under the new scheme.
Under the current scheme, young fine defaulters can be imprisoned in limited circumstances. As is the case with all other offenders, the new fine enforcement scheme proposed in this bill provides a number of options that can be pursued against a young defaulter before imprisonment is considered. Of particular importance is the option of a voluntary community work order.
It is fair to say that, in general, young defaulters are the least likely to have the means to discharge the fine through payment, earnings redirection, financial institution deduction or property seizure and sale. Undertaking voluntary community work will allow a young defaulter to avoid prison. Undertaking voluntary community work may also be of benefit to the young defaulter, not only in terms of discharging an outstanding fine but also in the development of life skills.