Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3900 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
away from them one of the fundamental aspects and one of the fundamental principles that apply to the administration of justice in this Territory, namely, the capacity for our magistrates to exercise and to impose some humanity on, and in relation to, the punishment of offenders within our system. I think it is a vital tenet of the administration of justice. It always has been and is recognised these days by most jurists and by most criminologists.
To render your magistrates simple ciphers, to give them no discretion, not to allow them to look at the facts of individual cases, not to allow them to look at the circumstances of individual perpetrators, to render all perpetrators a simple mass, a simple class of perpetrator, with no distinguishing features, is a regrettable move that I think this community will pay a price for. You cannot lump offenders together as a mass of humanity and regard them as a single unit. We have different circumstances. We have different family circumstances. We have different work capacities.
There are people in this town who, as a result of the passage of this legislation, will lose their jobs. They may have done things that we would have preferred they had not done. They may have committed crimes which we frown upon, crimes which we view seriously. As a result of this legislation they will lose their jobs. People who rely on the capacity to have provided to them a special licence for the purpose of carrying out their everyday work, the work on which they and their families rely for an income to sustain their lives, will lose their jobs. People doing productive things within our community who do transgress, who do break the law, will as a result of these amendments lose their job and their capacity to provide for their families and their children.
This is a serious and retrograde step that we have taken today. Whilst we sit here and accept the passage of these five pieces of legislation, it should not go unrecorded at this final knell that this is a serious backward step that we have taken today in relation to the way in which we as a community view the administration of justice and our attitude to punishment. We have emasculated our magistrates in this way. We no longer allow them to view individual human beings in a human light, taking into account all the factors in their lives that might perhaps have swayed an intelligent, thinking magistrate about an appropriate response to a malefactor's transgressions. We have removed the magistrates' capacity to look at individual transgressors as human beings with human responsibilities. This is bad law that we are passing here tonight. We as a community will suffer as a result of passing bad law.
MR KAINE (7.53): I also would like to make a comment or two at the conclusion of the debate on this package of Bills that have been brought forward by the Government. I regret that I do not share the sentiments of my friend Mr Stanhope. I take a different view. Some years ago the Government began a process of putting into place a set of laws to do with the behaviour of people on our roads which I believed right from the outset was in the public interest. That is our purpose. Our purpose here is to make legislation that is in the public interest. I do not believe that the Government has brought this legislation forward for any other reason, and I have not supported it for any other reason.