Page 2451 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 1 July 2008

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the removal from the act of the statutory remission scheme, which my colleague Mr Seselja will speak about. There are considerable concerns about the manner in which the sentencing provisions are drafted. The proposed new chapter 8A to be included in the Crimes (Sentencing) Act adds a gloss to the provisions already contained in the Crimes (Sentencing) Act that deal with sentencing principles, considerations to be taken into account when sentencing, and pre-sentencing report matters.

The object, as the opposition understands it, is to have a chapter that simply sets out the provisions that apply to children and young people. To that end, a proposed dedicated section 133D adds, for example, some additional relevant considerations when sentencing young offenders. However, sentencing already requires an examination of cultural background, character, antecedents, age and physical or mental condition of the offender. In that case, the opposition asks: what does proposed section 133D add to the law? My colleague Mr Stefaniak will speak more about this.

The opposition is concerned that the provisions relating to the sentencing of young offenders are unnecessarily complex and could give rise to inconsistency of approach, which is clearly undesirable when considering the liberty of citizens. This is a matter that the opposition, the Canberra Liberals, will be keeping under review and, if necessary, we will bring forward amendments.

In relation to child protection, there are issues relating to mandatory and voluntary reporting, of which there were 8,710 last year. The bill proposes reducing the threshold for voluntary reporting from requiring a reporter to report where there is a reasonable belief that a child or young person is in need of care and protection to a belief that the child has been abused or neglected. While the explanatory memorandum suggests that the new legislation will streamline the manner in which reports are considered, the opposition is concerned that care and protection could drown in mandatory reports, as seems to have happened in New South Wales, and that trivial reports will take up time when people should be looking at the hard cases.

I hope that the minister can explain to the Assembly how the reports are to be streamlined and offer a crystal-clear guarantee that there are staff available to consider child abuse reports. I think that there are some issues about staff that the minister has discussed in another context.

There are some issues about family conferencing. While I agree with the principle, there are some concerns about when the chief executive must apply to the courts to have these matters dealt with. I am not satisfied with the answers provided by the minister and I will be keeping a close eye on the operation of the registering of the results of family group conferencing.

There are also provisions in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. There is no real disagreement about the notion of keeping kinship groups together, but I have concerns, and there have been concerns expressed, that in practice sometimes the overriding instinct to keep Indigenous children in Indigenous families may not necessarily be in the best interests of the child.

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