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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4838 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

As I said yesterday, and as I will continue to say, as long as we continue to have a law and order debate that looks only at the short term, at the sentencing reforms, at the number of police on the streets, as opposed to what it is that police should be doing and how they should be working with the community and how we can foster greater community participation in the reduction of crime and helping and addressing the social causes that lead to crime, I do not think we are having proper debate. Again, it appears that this MPI, which has so far had a focus on a horse team that had two police members in it and how that is now finished, is not necessarily constructive in the bigger picture.

I think a proper debate on law and order will be about how the programs I have discussed will work here in the ACT and what we can do to help residents here in the ACT. It will also talk about reducing poverty and homelessness. It will talk about improving the health and education of Canberrans. I would like to see that involved in a law and order debate. I would like to see us actually look at this in a very holistic way. Until we do that, we are going to be stuck with the same old attitude of tougher sentences and penalties as the way to address our problems, and we have seen that that does not work.

MS TUCKER (4.03): The Greens welcome the opportunity to speak again about how, we, as a society, best ensure order and safety for our citizens. Like Ms Dundas, I am not going to focus on horses. I want to talk about some of the broader issues. I will not again go into detail on the demographic profile of those among us who are antisocial or who come into contact with the law. It is well and truly on the record already and it would be clear to anyone who look at it that the majority of such people are themselves suffering in some way and have stories which, not surprisingly, have resulted in their coming into the criminal justice system.

The work of governments is to understand that and act to intervene before it happens through social support systems sensitive to the potential for positive and appropriate support and intervention. This sensitivity also needs to be applied after the fact of involvement with the criminal justice system, and that is what I will speak about in more detail today. Yesterday, I did speak about underlying causes and Mrs Dunne was getting interested in our talking about underlying causes. It is not going to stop, because underlying causes are a very important part of this debate. Today, I want to focus on what happens once people do come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Some people claim that order can be maintained by imposing tougher penalties and that victims demand that. In fact, such generalisations are not helpful or accurate. People respond differently to the trauma of being a victim of crime. It is true that some demand vengeance, but it is also true that some find the notion of vengeance abhorrent. There is a large body of evidence that shows that victims are not as punitive as the ones whose bitter calls for brutal punishment get most media coverage.

I will talk about conferencing in more detail later, but it is interesting to look at how the experience of being a victim of crime is affected by approaches such as conferencing. Studies show that when victims are involved in that approach the fear of revictimisation and victim upset about the crime declines after the restorative justice process. But I think that we could all accept that most, if not all, victims of crime do agree that, whatever the response of society, the objective should be that the crime does not happen to anyone else.

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