Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1116 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
the option of a community service order instead of gaol. As a principle, I do not think that can be gainsaid. Since the debate this morning I have had discussions with the Minister and with other members of the Assembly. I appreciate very much the sentiments that the Minister has brought to those discussions; but, on balance, the Labor Party has decided that, as a matter of principle, it would prefer to continue with its proposed amendments in relation to this Bill, and that is what we will do. We wish to put these amendments and we maintain our position, understanding and accepting the arguments that the Minister has put to me in private and accepting the difficulty of the situation as expressed by him. But I do believe, and the Labor Party does believe, that the overriding principle of doing everything we can as a community to keep people out of gaol should be pursued.
I believe that not to do that is to send a significant signal about our commitment to alternatives to detention. My understanding of most of the debate these days about gaol as a punishment concentrates very much on what are the alternatives to incarceration. I believe that there are very reasonable alternatives that we should be pursuing, that we should be maintaining, and that we should not give up on those alternatives because of what I will admit are significant economic imperatives or issues. Nevertheless, we are abandoning our commitment to seeking to keep people out of gaol if we are not prepared to pursue an alternative to incarceration because of a cost factor. I think that that really does get out of kilter, or put out of balance, some of the human factors. I am concerned about that, and the Labor Party will maintain its support for these amendments.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (6.12): Mr Speaker, I address my remarks to Ms Tucker, since she is the only other person in the chamber who has not indicated a position on this legislation. I said this morning in the in-principle debate on this legislation, having seen Mr Stanhope's amendments, that I was sympathetic to the objective that he was attempting to put in place. I share partly his view about imprisonment. It is not a particularly desirable remedy for someone's failure to pay a fine. Mr Stanhope says to the chamber that he believes that we should do everything we can to prevent people from going to gaol for failure to pay a fine. Of course, there is something more that he could suggest, that is, simply to abolish the option of gaol for fine default. If he believes that we should avoid gaol, then it would seem appropriate to take that step.
Mr Berry: CSOs are a good idea.
MR HUMPHRIES: I will come to that in a minute; but, on the point I am making, Mr Berry, if you believe that we should not have gaol, it would be appropriate to abolish that as an option altogether. But what Mr Stanhope has done instead has been to put another layer in, to insert the layer of community service orders before gaol. Mr Speaker, I have some sympathy for - - -
Mr Berry: What is wrong with CSOs? Tell us what is wrong with them?
MR HUMPHRIES: Let me finish my remarks, Mr Berry. I have sympathy for that point of view. I think Mr Stanhope suggests a reasonable concept. I would like to see that step imposed as an alternative before gaol, too. I said that this morning and I have not changed my view about that.