Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (4 March) . . Page.. 441 ..
MS TUCKER (12.09): I move amendment No 2 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 489]. This proposed new section would mean that someone who has committed a crime and then produces some artistic work that can be linked in any way to the crime, or to the notoriety arising from that crime, could possibly be hauled before court again to defend why they should retain any profits from the artistic work.
On one level I can understand the motivation, but we should think about how this would really affect particularly disadvantaged, socially excluded and marginalised people, who you find make up most of those in the criminal justice system. Imagine someone whose horizons have been expanded by the art program in a prison, such as in the Northern Territory's program, and whose art has helped them to work through what they did, what it means, why; which has helped them find some self-acceptance, some role for themselves and some way forward. These are rehabilitation programs for people who have committed some crime.
In the "ending offending"project in 1999, over 150 prisoners in Alice Springs and Darwin were engaged in producing artistic material-songs, stories, paintings, a web site, et cetera. These works "addressed the issues of offending and alcohol and drug use". In this project, any profits from the sale of the artistic works "will be directed into community-based projects". This is part of the rehabilitative function; it is part of the "mutual discourse between the prisoner and the community".
The end effect in terms of allocation of the money may be the same, but there are worlds of difference between being part of a project that uses the proceeds for community ends and having the proceeds ordered from you by a court to be used for ends determined by the government.
What a huge difference it is for a person to be able to move from a sense of being worthless, of having to take everything they can get because no-one is going to give anything to someone they feel is useless, to being able to experience for the first time the feeling of making something beautiful or intriguing with their own hands, and perhaps selling that work. What if they are taken to court and the legitimacy of that work is challenged? We are familiar with the law and the justice system, and therefore it is easy for us to imagine somehow ticking off some boxes against the safeguards that are contained in the bill. But there is nothing safe about having to go back to court to justify yourself when you have just, for the first time, seen yourself as having something to give.
Some may point to Chopper Read's writing as an example of the sort of people we do not want profiting from artwork based on their crimes. It is hard for victims of crime to confront the apparent success of such persons. But that work and the subsequent movie have given us an insight into the world of criminals and criminal society, which revolves around being in and out of prison. There is no way to authenticate that without artistic works coming from prisoners.
Under the definition and the list in the measure now before us, the profits from Chopper Read's book may have been taken away. He may have been frustrated, left the doorway he took unopened and continued on with his violent life. That he did not do this is partly due, it seems, to the proceeds of the writing based on his crimes, and certainly the profits