Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 27 August 2009) . . Page.. 3781 ..
result of this, we were put in a situation where we had to consider whether we would change the law to bring it roughly into line with other jurisdictions across Australia.
The committee does contrast the changes that were made in Western Australia in 2006 following on a substantial law reform inquiry and changes which are currently being considered in the United Kingdom, which would change the definition of murder, which again followed eminent inquiry by eminent jurists. But here in the ACT we had a very brief speech and no background support, not even a reference to the minister’s own recently appointed law reform committee.
As a result of that, Mr Speaker, we have made recommendations in this report that would improve the status of the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council. We recommend to the minister that it should be reconstructed so that it takes on more of the character of the previous law reform advisory bodies that have been established in the ACT, first by Mr Collaery in the community law reform committee, which was continued by Attorney Connolly. Then, when Gary Humphries became the Attorney-General, that body was restructured slightly, but it was still an eminent body that was headed at various times by former Justice Crispin and now Justice Refshauge.
The first recommendation is that we improve the law reform advisory capacity to the government in the ACT and that in future when there are substantial changes to the law those matters should be referred in the first instance to eminent people.
One of the other issues that came up constantly in the evidence was that the attorney was saying, and other people also said, that uniformity in the way we have murder laws was important. The committee came to the view that in fact there is only superficial uniformity in the laws across Australia. In fact, there is a great deal of divergence about how murder is defined and constructed in various criminal codes and in the common law as they apply in every jurisdiction.
What will happen if this bill is passed in its present form is that the ACT will come into line with the Northern Territory in exact form, but nowhere else. There will always be variation. The committee recommends in recommendation 2 that the Attorney-General place on the agenda of the Standing Committee of Attorney-Generals the need for uniformity in the murder offence provisions given that there are differences across Australia and the perception that there is uniformity when that is not the case.
It is worth noting that the work on crimes against the person done by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in relation to the model Criminal Code, by the minister’s own evidence, has been bogged down for about 10 years and that this might be an opportunity to revive that.
One of the really important things that seems to come out of the evidence, and it was certainly mentioned when you were present at some of the inquiry, Mr Speaker, was that there seemed to be a huge amount of dissatisfaction especially by law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies about leniency of sentencing in the ACT.
As a result of that, the committee has two recommendations: one goes directly to manslaughter, where the committee recommends that the maximum sentence for