Page 5190 - Week 12 - Thursday, 27 October 2011

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Public transport funding needs to be in proportion to the scale of the transport problems we face. Planning rules need to reform the way we plan our suburbs so that public transport can be prioritised. These are the things we need the government to do.

MADAM ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ms Le Couteur): The discussion is concluded.

Crimes (Certain Penalty Increases) Amendment Bill 2011

Debate resumed from 18 August 2011, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (3.52): The opposition will not be supporting this bill today. This may come as a surprise to some because before the government introduced its bill the opposition had put a bill on the table which sought to reform the maximum penalties that apply to a range of criminal offences. Indeed, there is considerable overlap between the two bills.

But the major point of difference is in the removal, in the government’s bill, of the special recognition by way of premium penalties for certain aggravated offences. The offences are those for which the government seeks to increase the penalties in this bill—that is, causing or intentionally or recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm, and culpable driving causing grievous bodily harm or death.

The government’s approach is to say to the courts: “If you want to treat this offence as an aggravated offence, you will have to choose a sentence within the scope of the maximum penalty for the offence as it stands in its ordinary form. You will get no guidance from the specifics of the aggravated offence provisions of the law.” There will be no premium penalty for aggravated forms of those offences in the way that it currently applies in the ACT. Yet the premium penalties that apply to the remaining aggravated offences on the ACT statute book will continue to apply in the same way. Those are manslaughter, wounding, inflicting actual bodily harm and assault causing actual bodily harm.

So this bill would create a level of discrimination between two various forms of aggravated offences. Some offences will be treated differently from others. There is no rationale in the minister’s presentation speech or his comments at any time as to why this should be so. What kind of message does that send from the legislature to the judiciary and the community at large? This is why we are supposedly here today—because we have been asked to send a strong message to the community and the judiciary that we in this place consider that these are serious offences and that the punishment should be substantial.

Mr Corbell used the line from the Mikado on the radio this morning that the punishment should fit the crime. But at the same time he is debasing the punishment by his course of action here today. At best, this sends a very mixed message. At worst, it tells the judiciary and the community that the legislature regards some aggravated offences more seriously than it does others. This last point goes to the heart, the very reason, for the need for reform.

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