Page 2314 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005
Mr Speaker, after the conclusion of the Fifth Assembly, the legal affairs committee, along with other committees, looked at annual reports and made three recommendations. I will come to those, but I wish firstly to make some preliminary points in relation to the report. The committee reported on agency annual reports in relation to the Department of Justice and Community Safety. If members look at page 10 of the report they will see a list showing the large number of areas for which the report is responsible.
Overall, we considered the report to be compliant with the Chief Minister’s annual report directions. It is accessible, informative and comprehensive, but we do consider that future reports should focus a little more on critical analysis of data presented. For example, the large and unexplained drop in community hours worked by detainees and the jump from 75 to 258 in Court of Appeal listed matters have been left unexplained in the report, although explanations were provided at the public hearing. The explanations were logical, but something like that certainly should go into the reports.
Both the Comminute Advocate and the Director of Public Prosecutions voiced frustration with developing interagency protocols outlining approaches and responsibilities. Both also, as an important side issue, spoke about delays in establishing a better database to inform policy making, especially in sexual abuse matters. As government and its institutions become more complex, and since traditional approaches to accountability have been confined to an individual CEO or departmental level, it is the committee’s view that it becomes increasingly important that departmental functions are undertaken in ways that are better coordinated, more integrated, simpler, and especially more client driven. Recommendation 1 states:
The Committee requests that relevant ACT Government agencies, under the supervision of the Department of Justice and Community Safety, develop workable inter-agency protocols, with a view to attaining improved data collection and reporting that is more consistent, focused and clearer.
Some of the major issues looked at became part of the report. The Director of Public Prosecutions responded to an initial written request on matters raised in the annual report. We adopted the approach that, if people wanted to draw particular matters to the committee’s attention, they should do so. We wrote to all the agencies and the DPP was one that responded. One of the reasons for doing that was to ensure that things did not fall through the cracks and that, if an agency wanted to bring highlights to the committee’s attention, the Assembly’s attention or the minister’s attention, it would have the opportunity to do so.
The major issues explored by the committee in terms of the DPP’s report were the increasing complexity of the criminal justice system and the prosecution of criminal offences, as well as the increasing number of offences to prosecute, and the increasing pressures on the office of the impact of new technology, human rights issues and scientific advances, plus the increasing complexity of value reports and their requirements. The DPP mentioned a number of items and I will highlight a few of them.
In the overview to the report and during the hearings, the DPP provided a useful appreciation of the pervasiveness of trends such as human rights, circle sentencing and the criminal code within the legislative environment, plus the impact of extraordinary