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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 541 ..



As I said, this Bill is a very positive piece of legislation. I understand that there is a resistance within the judiciary to it. However, I believe that in the long run it is going to be a very worthwhile piece of legislation. The role is one that I hope will enhance the Children's Court and help the young people who are in vulnerable positions in the situations in which they find themselves. Once again, I thank members for their patience on this Bill and I thank all the wise men and women upstairs who have been involved in redrafting this Bill.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (4.34): Mr Speaker, I will be brief in my comments on the amendments. I thank Mr Osborne for his willingness to deal with a number of issues which the Government raised in respect of the Bill which passed on the last sitting occasion. I appreciate his willingness to work with us and the Parliamentary Counsel to ensure that the issues have been comprehensively addressed in the amendments which the Assembly is passing today. I repeat my hope that the usual processes for dealing with Bills, particularly Bills that have been referred to a committee and that need a government response to committee reports, will be adhered to in the future so that, hopefully, incidents of this kind can be avoided. I hope that we will be able to ensure that the Bill is able to operate as intended. In saying that, I do not indicate any change in the Government's view about the caution required in respect of this Bill. That remains a concern of the Government, but I am at least relieved that we have been able to deal with the legislation so that it is technically effective and does not have any unintended consequences of the kind that were referred to a couple of weeks ago.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (4.36): As previously indicated, the Labor Party is supportive of the notion of a specialist Children's Court magistrate. It is a concept that we think worth trialling in the ACT. Significant numbers of young people are coming before our courts and I think that this is an area in relation to the administration of law where communities and societies should be particularly careful and particularly sensitive in terms of sentencing and other options. It is obvious that many of the problems which we as a community and a society suffer arise as a result of the interface between young people and the criminal justice system. If we cannot address problems of children and the courts and children and the law in the optimal way, then it really is a recipe for continuing dysfunction. Many of the problems that persist within our community, I have no doubt, go back to the early treatment of children in the criminal justice system.

I think this is an incredibly sensible move. I know that there is some resistance in some quarters to it, and I regret that. I get the impression that there is some resistance in some parts of the court to this proposal, and I regret that. I think it is a very sensible thing to do. I think that the more we bring greater focus to the special needs of the children facing the criminal courts the better it is, not just for those children but for the community, in the long term. There is enormous concern within the community at the extent to which young people present as lawless. There is tremendous concern within the community at the extent to which young people, children, actually appear to be flouting accepted behaviour and flouting the law. It seems to me that we should do everything that we can as a community to address those problems. The establishment of a specialist

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