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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4126 ..

Rehabilitation of Offenders (Interim) Amendment Bill 2002 (No 2)

Debate resumed.

MS DUNDAS (4.42): I thank the Assembly for the short adjournment on this bill. I was awaiting return phone calls and I apologise for holding up the lightning speed agenda of this morning's sittings. As part of that, I will only speak briefly this afternoon.

The ACT Democrats will be supporting the measures in this bill. Creating a balance between the rights of victims and the rights of offenders is always difficult, and it is very easy to allow the rights of the victims to take precedence over those of offenders. But the offender and the victim are both citizens and both have rights.

The victim should be allowed protection and privacy. The justice system must allow victims to be heard and ensure that the victim has faith that speaking out does not mean that they will then be targeted. Offenders have rights, as well. They need to be aware of the allegations against them in order to prepare a defence. Parole is an area where these rights are often in conflict.

Many victims would rather the offenders were never released. Yet a corrections system based on rehabilitation needs to be able to assess for and allow early release on conditions and enable offenders to integrate themselves back into the community and serve as citizens of our society.

My concerns with this bill revolve around the systems that are in place to take reasonable steps to contact the victim-which is a term used in the bill-and around the increase in the threshold for withholding information from offenders, in effect allowing more offenders access to information.

Through discussions with officials from the department, I have heard in detail the steps and systems that are currently in place in both these areas, and I am satisfied that they are currently adequate. But it is not made clear by reading the bill, under section 96, that before any information is passed on to the offender, victims are contacted again and are able to withdraw their submission if they so wish. That is worth noting. Both these systems allow the victims to be protected whilst not stripping the rights from the offender.

The rest of the bill contains minor and technical amendments to the principal act to ensure that the Parole Board is able to act in a timely and efficient manner. These changes are definitely to be supported, and I thank the department officials for being able to quickly work with me to address the concerns that I had. Hopefully, the new system will recognise the rights of both the offender and the victim as they go through the process of dealing with parole.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming and Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections) (4.45), in reply: I thank members for their support.

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