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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 5109 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

This is one of those areas where the government has a process in place. It's well advanced and deeply consultative, and the stakeholders have been engaged at every step of the way. To pass this bill would be bad law-making. There are matters that Mr Smyth raises with which we don't disagree, but the process is wrong and inefficient. A better process will result in far better outcomes, far better law, a much more streamlined, sensible, open, opaque and workable system of sentencing in the ACT. I urge members not to support these proposals today and to look at the package that the government will be bringing down. Then some of the issues raised by Mr Smyth, and which will be pursued by the government, can be debated in full.

MS DUNDAS (3.47): My first reaction to seeing a piece of legislation called Corrections Reform and moved by the Leader of the Opposition was here we go again, more of the lock-them-up, throw-away-the-key kind of debate that we've seen from the Liberals recently, and which would fit in with the other legislation that has been put forward. Two weeks ago I said that if we were seriously looking to debate law and order, we would be looking at legislation that provided a greater emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation, not legislation that simply seeks to increase the prison population. So, I was pleased to see, on closer consideration, that this legislation provides alternatives to incarceration and has an emphasis on getting people out of the criminal system. These are welcome steps from Mr Smyth and a genuine attempt to prevent re-offending.

Paragraph (c) of proposed section 338 (1) of the bill puts rehabilitation in combination with community-based programs and also recognises that offenders are not all the same. Sentences are to take into account the distinct needs of men and women of different ages and cultures, ethnicity and other factors. That doesn't go far enough and if we go to the in-detail stage I will move amendments to include a recognition of mental illness and an express recognition of the needs of indigenous offenders, who are chronically overrepresented in our criminal justice system. I like Mr Smyth's proposal to appoint case managers to sentenced offenders. This is a significant step and for the first time it looks at having offenders tracked through the system and we can look at their experiences. However, I have concerns about the effectiveness of these caseworkers. If this legislation is to pass, I hope the government does not let sentencing caseworkers fall the way of legal aid-which is underfunded, underresourced and overworked-and be unable to do their jobs to their full effectiveness. If sentencing reform is to work properly it needs to be fully supported and funded all the way.

I would like to respond to some points that the Attorney made when talking about the process that the government already has in train. I'm disappointed to say we've heard this before-that a review is going on and we're going to see some action soon-but we haven't seen any movement. The Chief Minister said he is supportive of some of the ideas but he then put forward his own platform for reform-which the Assembly has not seen yet. Therefore, I would prefer to see this debate adjourned at the in-principle stage so that we have time to make amendments or we have the government's legislation so we can make a comparison and choose the good bits of both.

I hope the Attorney is listening to today's debate about corrections reform. We've had a lot of debate before in the Assembly about law and order and crime and punishment, but it has not focussed on corrections reform. If the government is serious about corrections reform and if it has consulted widely and is going to put forward a new agenda, it should be listening to this debate with interest and picking up some of the

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