Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (19 May) . . Page.. 317 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
Also, were that not enough, judges and magistrates have access to crime figures which in the Territory, I understand, according to my colleague the Attorney-General, are published quarterly. So, again, there is material readily available for them there. I do not think we should attempt to go behind the experience of our judges and magistrates when they call for this type of legislation. I am sure they would not take that step were there not a real need, in their eyes, for legislation of this type. I think the Attorney is acting quite rightly and properly in bringing this amendment to the Crimes Act back to the Assembly.
Mr Speaker, courts have a duty to protect the community. The citizens of this community expect that. I think it is our role as legislators to ensure that we give the courts the tools they need to do their job of protecting the community. This commonsense principle has been with us for many, many years. It ceased to be part of our law through the legislation of 1993. This Government quite sensibly, at the request of three of our very learned judges in our Supreme Court, is now attempting to bring it back into legislation. This Bill is very worthy of support. I think the community would be very disappointed were the Assembly not to support this most commonsense piece of legislation.
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (12.14): Mr Speaker, I rise to oppose this Government Bill. I am on record as opposing this amendment before, and I do it again. It comes within the area of civil liberties which my Cabinet colleagues accept are matters of principle for me, and I state for the record that I have not taken part in any Cabinet discussion on this issue.
Mr Speaker, this is the third time that the Assembly has debated this issue. It debated it in 1994 and again in 1997, last November. This proposal has been rejected in favour of a more enlightened approach to sentencing. Mr Humphries, of course, now believes that he has the numbers to pass the Bill; so he has reintroduced it. I hope it is not passed, because it would indeed be a retrograde step. In the last Assembly Mr Wood and Mr Whitecross ensured that the Labor Party took a principled stand on this issue of civil liberties, and I am pleased to see that Mr Stanhope today has reiterated that stand. Considering Mr Stanhope's background as head of the Civil Liberties Council, I am delighted that that is the case.
The Bill moves away from the ancient principle that each accused should be judged on their own merits in their own circumstances. The prevalence of offence factor would be subject to perceptions of a crime wave, possibly generated by a careless media - although I know you believe that that would be very hard to find in the ACT, but it is possible - or unscrupulous political campaigning, which I know you would find just as difficult to find in the ACT. The courts ought not be influenced by such fickle impressions.
That brings me to the point that Mr Stefaniak raised. Mr Stefaniak argued that judges and magistrates are the best people to deal with the prevalence of crime because they see it every day. Wrong, Mr Stefaniak! They are the very worst people for the very same reason - they have a jaded perception of what is going on. They have to deal with crime day in and day out. Whose responsibility is it? Whose responsibility is it to deal with the prevalence of crime? It is your responsibility, Mr Stefaniak. It is Mr Berry's responsibility. It is my responsibility. It is Mr Rugendyke's responsibility. It is the responsibility of every member of this Assembly and we ought not pass that