Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 November 2011) . . Page.. 5355 ..
committee that recommended to the Assembly that we increase the penalty for manslaughter from 25 to 30 years. This was a decision of the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety after seeking and acquiring evidence in hearings. It was not something that was done lightly, as you, Madam Deputy Speaker, would recall.
I am also concerned—I will discuss this at some length later—about the direct equation that the minister is making between manslaughter and grievous bodily harm. They are both serious offences, but one has a more serious outcome than the other. When this is finished, there will still be some inconsistencies in the statute book because of the approach being taken by the government.
That said, this is an important day. It shows that we in this place are listening to the priorities of the community and we are addressing the local issues. They are being addressed by the Canberra Liberals because we listen, we participate, we take things into account. Our commitment to provide the best local government in the country is being delivered from opposition here today.
There has been considerable community support for this. It is not just the one odd email. Mr Rattenbury is fighting a rearguard action, saying, “Yes, we should do something about this, but in about six years time after we have had a vast amount of research.” We have to act here and now, because our prosecutors are in a situation where they cannot get convictions that meet community expectations. I have no qualms in saying that the results of the case that brought this matter to our attention clearly did not meet community expectations.
When two people die and another is grievously injured and someone spends less than a year in prison, that does not meet community expectations. There are a whole range of reasons why you have a penalty for an offence. Rehabilitation is one of them, but there are others. Quite frankly, it is sometimes—although we do not like to think about it—about punishment for wrongdoing, and the community was clearly unhappy about that.
Mr Rattenbury says, “Look, we can’t just rely on what’s happening elsewhere in other jurisdictions.” In fact, on the contrary, we have to rely on what is happening in other jurisdictions. In the case of culpable driving causing death, the penalty in the ACT is seven years compared to 15 in New South Wales and 20 in Victoria. Our case law, our jurisprudence on this, is so limited that when the prosecutors went back to appeal the lenience of the sentence, they relied on interstate case law. They were told that they could not rely on it because of the differential between the penalties between here and New South Wales and Victoria. It is quite simply the case that we are not a large enough jurisdiction to stand on our own and rely on our own case law. We have to take account of what is happening across the borders.
This is a great day for the people of the ACT. We will be making important and substantial legislative change, and I thank the government for their cooperation in this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.