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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (19 May) . . Page.. 318 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

responsibility on to judges. It is our responsibility to be aware of the context of crime and the prevalence of crime, and where there is a problem with a specific crime it is our responsibility to change the law and to change the penalties associated with the law. This Bill is a product of regrettable politics, of law and order politics, and the old tub-thumping politics on law and order. That is why we should take great care when we see this sort of legislation come before the Assembly yet again.

Let me refer to the arguments in favour of this sort of legislation. The last time, on 11 November 1997, Mr Humphries put it this way:

The Government's argument is very simple. There are two bases for moving and supporting this amendment. One is the strongly expressed view of senior members of the legal profession on this subject, people who deal with this problem on a day-to-day basis.

That one I have already dealt with, so we can dismiss that. He continued:

The other is the in-principle argument that the community deserves and requires to be protected in the face of serious problems with particular types of crime.

Of course they do. Of course they deserve to be protected from it, but it is not the responsibility of the judiciary. It is a clear responsibility of this legislature. This sentencing measure will have no impact whatsoever on reducing crime. There is no realistic deterrent effect on potential offenders by using this. All it will mean, as I indicated in November, is that one person gets a certain penalty for a crime on one occasion, and a week later another person will get a far higher penalty for exactly the same crime. I think that that in itself is simply unjustified.

This Bill is a placebo for those citizens and politicians who want to believe that society is disintegrating and something must be done. It is knee-jerk and it is reactionary. Imprisonment is a regrettable response to offenders. It has to happen at times, and we should use it as a last resort. I know that Mr Humphries, Mr Stefaniak and others agree with that point. If this measure has any effect in increasing the number of people imprisoned or in lengthening prison terms, and it certainly has the capacity to do that, then it is harmful to the health of society. We must ensure that we consider these sorts of issues very carefully.

I will make one last point, Mr Speaker. Mr Humphries, in his introductory speech, drew this conclusion, and I quote from that speech:

The amendments to the sentencing principles proposed in this Bill are modelled on the approach taken in legislation in Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

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