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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2010) . . Page.. 2474 ..


MR RATTENBURY: Nor Mrs Dunne, so it is very disappointing for all of us, for those of us on the non-government benches. That said, the Greens will not be supporting the amendment put forward by Mrs Dunne. The proposal is to aggravate the government’s offence of participation. The government’s offence criminalises participation in a criminal group where harm is caused to any person. The maximum penalty for someone found guilty of the offence is 10 years imprisonment, and we believe that is a serious sentence to meet a serious crime.

What the Liberals’ amendment would do is aggravate that offence where it is a law enforcement officer that has been caused harm. An extra four years would be added to the maximum sentence, making the penalty for a proposed offence 14 years. That is the effect of the proposals: 14 years if you cause harm to a law enforcement officer; 10 years if it is anyone else.

The Greens take the position that the government’s offence and its 10-year sentence is a strong enough deterrent. To distinguish for one section of the community such as law enforcement officers raises question about whether other sections of the community such as teachers or nurses also require greater protection. The Greens do not think it is useful to enter into that discussion. We believe it is better to rely on the strong deterrent created by the government’s offence.

Picking up on the issue of consistency that Mrs Dunne touched on briefly in her comments—I think partly tongue in cheek, but with an element of seriousness as well—I want to make the observation that our amendments are primarily aimed at human rights protection rather than a focus on consistency with New South Wales. As I said in the earlier debate today, I think that as a jurisdiction, particularly a jurisdiction that has specifically set out to name the human rights that we seek to provide protection for, we do not necessarily need to be dragged down by other jurisdictions. We should be striving to be the best we can be, and that may not always lead to the greatest of consistency—it may be that we are out in front on occasions—and that is the basis on which certainly our earlier amendments were moved.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (5.09): The government will not be supporting the amendment, although I am touched indeed by Mrs Dunne’s respect for the office of Attorney-General; I think perhaps I would put it that way.

The reason for this is that the government has a longstanding policy of not including aggravated offences against a class of person in the criminal law and this includes law enforcement officers. If the government introduced aggravated offences for offences against law enforcement officers, there is a risk this would create a class of more valued workers at the expense of others. There are many job categories that have significant contact with the public and as a result tend to experience an increased incidence of external workplace aggression or violence. This includes, for example, healthcare workers, teachers, security officers and welfare workers.

While the government believes that offences committed against law enforcement officers and other occupations with significant public exposure are serious, we believe


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