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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) . . Page.. 3750 ..


Importantly, the process includes the following conditions and consequences: the offence must be an eligible offence and serious violence and sexual offences are not eligible. The offender must plead guilty and the offender must be assessed and examined as being suitable for the program.

In addition, treatment orders have strict conditions, including that the offender must complete a recognised treatment program, must not commit another crime, must report as directed, must receive visits from a member of the treatment team to monitor progress and must comply with any other order that the court imposes. Breaching any of these conditions means that the court can take further action, which includes a range of options from adding further conditions to imposing a custodial sentence for the original offence, plus the breaches of the treatment orders.

These are vital inclusions because this approach must not be seen as a get out of jail free card. This is a sentence alternative, not a sentence removal. On that basis, the Canberra Liberals support the drug court of the ACT. I will, however, add a note of caution. This program will only succeed with ongoing and substantive support.

Reports from interstate show that success leads to increasing demand and that demand requires funding. The problem was demonstrated in New South Wales, where reports show the inability of the drug court to provide programs to all offenders who are within the defined geographical catchment area of the court and who are both eligible and appropriate for the program. The 2017 report contained an analysis of both the cost of not providing a Drug Court opportunity and the lack of fairness in not providing a Drug Court program opportunity. The report states:

The demand for places at the Parramatta Court has, for some years now, outstripped supply, and the graph below shows the ever increasing gap between referrals and placement on program.

If this to work is to succeed, it is very important that the government provides the adequate resources so that the court can direct offenders to the appropriate programs. If those programs are not resourced, the court will not be able to do its job. I raise this because the government does have a history of announcing programs but then not providing adequate funding.

I would point to the lack of support for the DPP that was a problem for many years. It was raised in annual reports by the director himself over a number of years, as well as the removal of support for legal aid in this year’s budget. I do not want to be here in the future saying, “What a shame this program is not working properly because the court is unable to direct people to the appropriate rehabilitation programs to make such a court successful.” The Canberra Liberals will support this court but will also support the appropriate funding of such measures to make the court a success.

I move now to the amendments, which will be discussed in the detail stage. However, I will also discuss them briefly now. We support the amendments to this bill. There are two main areas. The first are functional amendments. They cover a range of technical, procedural and functional changes. The second relates to providing an


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