Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2041 ..
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (10.32): Mr Speaker, I present the Children's Services (Amendment) Bill (No. 3) 1998, together with its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MR STANHOPE: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
Mr Speaker, this is the first of a package of three Bills that I propose to present this morning. The package of Bills is similar to amendments I moved in June when the principal legislation was amended at the instigation of the Attorney-General. At the time the amendments that I moved were withdrawn. There was some comment within the chamber that sufficient time had not been given for members to consider or debate the amendments that I proposed at the time. I indicated in the debate on that occasion that I would be presenting them later for the consideration of the Assembly, and I do that now.
My overriding concern, as expressed in that debate, is that people should be kept out of gaol if at all possible. This set of Bills requires the Magistrates Court to consider the option of a community service order before a fine defaulter is committed to prison. The current scheme compels the registrar to imprison a fine defaulter without the option of a community service order. In the case of a juvenile fine defaulter, the Children's Court is required to consider a report by the Community Advocate before the juvenile is committed to an institution. The Children's Court may also consider other options available under the Children's Services Act.
All alternatives to incarceration need to be explored, and these measures are real and reasonable alternatives. Community service orders will not be appropriate or available in every case. However, the court's discretion to use this option should be available if suitable circumstances arise. If the court does not choose to order community service work the fine defaulter goes to prison. A community service order is not a soft option. It is a safety net if a special case arises. If a community service order is revoked, then the fine defaulter goes to gaol.
Debate (on motion by Mr Humphries) adjourned.