Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4725 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
This interesting mantra that we receive from the opposition in relation to law and order issues is: they do it in Sydney, they do it New South Wales: if it is good enough for New South Wales, then it should be good enough for us. This apparently is the basis on which the Liberal Party proposes to amend a whole range of penalty provisions throughout the ACT criminal law-namely, let us have a look and see what they do in New South Wales; if it is good enough there it is good enough for us. There is no attempt at any objective assessment or analysis of the implication of the change, just this: "Oh, well, they have done it in New South Wales; it must be right."One wonders whether or not the Liberal Party here is prepared to adopt that attitude in relation to the raft of legislation that applies in New South Wales and some of the other issues or policies that emanate in New South Wales from time to time.
But I think we need to acknowledge that there are significant differences, thank goodness, between Canberra and Sydney, and indeed between the ACT and New South Wales. We are very different; we have a different range of issues; we have a different range of issues to confront; we have different processes. We shouldn't simply say, "Well, this is the criminal law in New South Wales-if it is good enough for them it should be good enough for us-let's change all of our criminal law to match a range of changes or reforms that apply in New South Wales."
Over and above that, there are a significant number of inconsistencies in the maximum penalties that the Liberal Party seeks to set in relation to this. The maximum penalties for criminal offences are currently being examined, as I say, as part of the government's program of reform of the territory's criminal law. Indeed, as everybody here knows, the government has embarked on the incremental adoption of all of the recommendations of the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee. We will have the most modern criminal law in Australia when that process is concluded. That is the most consulted criminal law process, I think, in the history of the nation, and everybody here knows that.
The model Criminal Code process is something that has been carried on across governments, all governments in every state and territory in the Commonwealth, for more than a decade. It really is a model, and that is what the ACT government is basing its reforms on.
It is important to note that, while increasing the maximum penalties is an expression of legislative policy the courts recognise and apply, having regard to the proper discretion of the courts, this will not necessarily result in any actual higher sentences being imposed. I think we need to have regard to that. There is this simplistic, lazy approach to criminal law reform: look, just ramp the penalties up and everything will be right. It ignores the way the criminal justice system operates; it is a real fraud on the people within the community to have politicians come out and say, "Look, we can fix that problem; all you've got to do is impose a life sentence or actually arrange for a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment or perhaps even life imprisonment and you'll fix the problem."
It is just a lazy nonsense and, I think, a fraud on the people that we are seeking to represent when, at the end of the day, it might have absolutely no impact at all. More often than not it won't; it doesn't touch the causes of crime; it has almost no impact on whether or not a particular crime will be committed; and essentially it ignores the basis