Page 4127 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 21 September 2011

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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Assembly met at 10 am.

(Quorum formed.)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Rattenbury) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Crimes (Sentencing) Amendment Bill 2011

Mr Rattenbury, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.03): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I am pleased to present this bill today. It sets up a comprehensive review of sentences being imposed in the ACT. The review will inquire into how well the current sentencing regime is achieving the goals the Assembly set six years ago when the act came into effect. The review is a considered and responsible way for the ACT to undertake sentencing reform. I say at the outset that the review may well demonstrate that there is the need for important changes to the sentences our courts impose.

However, the Greens do fear to date that the Assembly has been taking an ad hoc approach to this very serious issue. We have seen no fewer than four separate sentencing bills either presented or promised by the government and the Canberra Liberals. Each proposes to increase maximum sentences for certain crimes. Civil Liberties Australia expressed their concerns very succinctly in a letter to Mr Corbell, Mrs Dunne and myself when they said, “We are concerned that the draft bills appear to be a rather over-speedy response to one off situations and to be incident based rather than evidence based.” I will repeat that—“incident based rather than evidence based”—because it sums up the situation quite well in the eyes of the Greens.

As it stands at the moment, the proposals are to increase sentences across four crime categories and more than 20 individual crimes. The Canberra Liberals have also foreshadowed that there is another bill that is close to finalisation. However, I think that these bills are something of a departure from how the ACT normally approaches issues like this. We do have a history of being more considered and seeking to act in a comprehensive way and in light of all the evidence. Indeed, over the last couple of years there have been election promises and committee recommendations for an evidence-based approach to sentencing reform.

At the last ACT election the ALP made the election commitment to spend $633,000 to set up a sentencing advisory council to provide evidence-based recommendations to government on sentencing. This has not been actioned by government in this term due

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