Page 3509 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 September 2015
The levy provides funds to the Victims of Crime Commissioner and to Victim Support ACT. The service assists victims of crime to cope and to access their rights and entitlements. These important services recognise the physical, emotional and financial hardship that victims of crime can face. I am happy to support initiatives that help them cope and get their lives back on track after they have been the victims of crime.
At that general level, the levy is an important funding source. It also serves the purpose of ensuring that those who commit crimes take responsibility for victims that suffer because of crimes. This is also reflected in the bill via the exceptions to the levy. Crimes that are essentially victimless are excluded from the scheme—such as parking offences. National heavy vehicle offences are also exempt as they are subject to a national agreement.
Beyond this general purpose, this particular increase has a specific purpose, and that is to fund costs of the new victims of crime financial assistance scheme. The revised scheme, which Minister Corbell announced earlier this year, is designed to be more accessible for victims. It is administered by the Victims of Crime Commissioner. It also changes the eligibility requirements for the scheme to allow access to more victims. One improvement is that victims of domestic and family violence are better recognised under the scheme and can receive emergency payments.
It is worth noting that even after this increase to the levy the ACT has one of the lowest levies of any jurisdiction. This is not an exorbitant fee. I am also aware that increases to particular fines are limited by a requirement that the levy not exceed the penalty unit amount by more than 20 per cent. Offenders who may not have the capacity to pay the fine have options to assist them, such as repayment plans.
Given the importance of the initiatives funded by the levy and the safeguards in place for people who might struggle to pay, I support this bill and the increase to the levy.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Capital Metro) (12.22), in reply: I thank members for their support of this bill today. I appreciate the comments of both Mr Hanson and Mr Rattenbury.
The bill increases the prescribed amount for the victims services levy under section 24(2) of the Victims of Crime Act 1994 from $30 to $40. The increase ensures that those who offend help take responsibility for assisting victims, through this modest levy. The increase to the levy made by the bill is, as Mr Hanson has noted, reflected in the 2015-16 budget and is projected to generate sufficient revenue to offset the administrative and transition costs of our new victims of crime financial assistance scheme.
The Victims of Crime Commissioner will administer the new scheme, which is designed to provide for more holistic case management and support victims of crime applying for financial assistance. The increased levy will cover the costs of additional staff for Victim Support ACT to implement the new scheme. The scheme will make