Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 5113 ..
MRS CROSS (continuing):
positive aspects of the bill and incorporates them into its sentencing reforms. I support the Corrections Reform Amendment Bill 2003.
MR STEFANIAK (4.03): I'm delighted to hear the crossbenchers supporting this bill at the in-principle stage, after which I understand debate will be adjourned. I commend my colleague for bringing it on. I agree with the Chief Minister in principle on one thing: if his package is consolidating about 12 acts into two, that is a very positive step. I don't know when he is going to bring in his package and I think there will be some big gaps in it. So it is somewhat ironic that whilst he praises aspects of Mr Smyth's bill he seems to want to kill it off now. That is a pity because there will probably be some considerable gaps in what Mr Stanhope is doing. About a month or two ago the Chief Minister put out a release about some of the aspects that will be in his bill, and in another debate I said that about 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the things needed in a full sentencing package were mentioned there. In that debate I said there was no mention of improved sentences prior to the rehabilitation stage and that the bill contained probably about 50 per cent of the total package needed.
There are a number of aspects to this bill. First, it ensures that police are adequately resourced to catch people and to put them before the courts. The second part of the equation is ensuring that if they are found guilty, adequate and proper sentencing in accordance with what the community expects is handed down by the court. That is an important part, too, of any total sentencing package. Once a person is sentenced, a wide range of sentencing options is available to a court. Mr Smyth has reinstated those with a couple of additional options which are very sensible and which have been used in New South Wales since 1999. They are place restriction orders and non-association orders.
Once someone is in prison, it is terribly important that proper steps are taken to ensure they are rehabilitated as much as possible and that they are sent out of the system better than when they came in. Mr Smyth's bill enables that to happen. Mrs Cross spoke quite eloquently of prisoners having the opportunity to assist themselves if they want to. Mr Smyth's bill does that. The bill will enable incentives to be given and changes to be made if a prisoner is going well, and that will be reflected in the total sentence. With imprisonment, invariably there will be a non-parole period and a parole period when the prisoner is at large. Currently there can be some mix and matches of penalties, and Mr Smyth provides for that in his bill and gives examples. I doubt very much that anyone would be sentenced to six years for stealing things, but if someone was sentenced to six years imprisonment for some heinous offence and received a two-year or three-year non-parole period, the bill provides a range of options and incentives that advance the criminal law. That is a highlight of this bill.
I sometimes talk to people who have been in jail, or to families of people who have been in the prison system. One of the complaints is that there isn't much help when they get out and that our parole system needs to be improved. It might simply be a phone call once a month to a prisoner. Not long ago a bloke was complaining to me that there was very little follow-up. He had some significant mental health problems as well. It was concerning to see the lack of follow-up, and the problems he had accessing the help he needed. At one stage he was suicidal and I put him on to the relevant people in the government. I thank the relevant minister's officers who assisted. It was really quite worrying just to hear his tale, and it's not the only one that I hear. A case management officer, or someone like that, is a very good idea. It is important that people keep tabs on