Page 4092 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005
nature of the murder. But the standard is 20 years and you will see that as well. I know the other side are going to pooh-pooh all this and will not support it. They go against what their comrades in New South Wales have done quite successfully, which has been largely accepted by the legal profession there and seems to work very well.
Bob Carr was keen to see that introduced and ensured that it was introduced by his government. That is something that I am sure Morris Iemma will continue to refine further. It is certainly something that I imagine the opposition can live with. Indeed they have indicated that they would like to see more, but we are not suggesting more; we are suggesting that there is a need for consistency. I would like to see it across Australia, but at least in the ACT. If we have consistency on sensible sentencing laws with the jurisdiction which surrounds us—New South Wales—that would be a very positive step. That is something both the police and victims want to see. I suggest a significant number of the legal profession have no problems with that either. It is certainly something that I believe the community would like to see. It is ridiculous that someone who commits an offence in Queanbeyan is probably going to be up for a stiffer sentence than they would be if they committed the same offence in Canberra.
People have often asked me why someone got three years for an armed robbery in New South Wales when, over here for an almost identical offence, that person might well get off with a suspended sentence and not go to jail at all. I stress it is important to ensure that what our courts do—especially the Supreme Court—is consistent with other states. Sensible laws such as I am proposing here today will help in that regard.
To bring us into line with New South Wales, my bill also increases the maximum penalty. The maximum penalty is not the be-all and end-all. Victims and others will tell you that the most important aspect is the bottom—the time for which someone is sentenced to imprisonment. But the maximum is important. It gives a greater range for a court. In recent times we have seen big disparities between the maximum penalties imposed in New South Wales and those imposed here. For example, manslaughter—remember that one—attracts 25 years in New South Wales and attracts 20 years here.
The industrial manslaughter bill initially specified 25 years. That was amended to 20 years to make us consistent with the general rule of manslaughter. Perhaps that was a bit of a Freudian slip by the government. We have 25 years for industrial manslaughter, which is the same as manslaughter in New South Wales, yet we have 20 years for ordinary manslaughter. I think that shows the inconsistency of the government’s approach. Another example is one of the nastiest offences possible—rape in company, with injuries—pack rape. Not all that long ago New South Wales increased the maximum possible penalty to life imprisonment. That enabled the New South Wales courts to give out strong deterrent sentences in relation to some horrific rapes that had occurred in that community.
In respect of maximum penalties, it is very easy for politicians just to put those up and say “Aren’t we tough! We have done that.” Whilst, by itself, that does not do anything to stop a court which is mindful of imposing a very light penalty from doing so, it is a useful tool because it gives the system a broad range of penalties to consider for serious offences. It is important that we are consistent with the state that surrounds us in that regard. Fundamentally, that is what my package does.