Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 16 February 2017) . . Page.. 594 ..
There is no question of the court’s power to order a sentence. There is no question of the Sentence Administration Board’s power to make decisions about administering a sentence. Any claim to compensation by a person affected would rest on the fact that the officers doing the administrative work were not backed by a delegation. Had delegations been signed, nothing else would have changed about what happened.
As Minister Rattenbury explained, the bill is retrospective. It changes the legal effect of actions undertaken in the past. While retrospective legislation is never a first choice, in this case there is a justification to proceed. Without retrospective effect, there could be litigation seeking damages over the administration of the scheme. The fact remains that in substance these sentences worked exactly as they should have. And key decisions about the terms of the sentence were made by the court or by the Sentence Administration Board.
The government is certainly mindful of the gravity that paperwork errors can carry. Delegations are part of the legal system and ensure that government action is carried out with the proper authority. Our agreement to this bill comes with a commitment to examine the causes of the error that made this legislation necessary, and to ensure that they are addressed. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety, Minister for Corrections and Minister for Mental Health) (12.04), in reply: Thank you, members, for your various contributions to the debate. I note that the attorney has just made some quite important points about why this legislation has been brought forward; I think they go to a number of comments that Mrs Jones made in discussion this morning and I do not see the necessity of repeating any of that.
I spoke earlier about the feedback from the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety in their role as the legislative scrutiny committee, and I noted their analysis. I thank Mrs Jones for giving me a copy of it so I could read it more carefully after she delivered it this morning. They have, in some ways, gone through the thought process that I went through initially. Then I had some further discussions with the attorney to affirm those views. They were to consider, in bringing forward a retrospectively acting bill, what the implications of that were and whether that was unfair to anybody in the community. I think that is the way to most plainly reflect what the Human Rights Act is about: is it unfair and unjust?
I think the scrutiny committee has formed the view that I did. To put it in plain English terms, was anybody made worse off because of this matter and would they be unfairly treated as a result of the retrospective correction of this oversight? The view that I formed was that the decisions were taken in good faith; the decisions were taken in ways that they would have been whether the delegation was in place or not; and the officers acted as they should have under the legislation. On that basis, what we simply are doing here is ensuring the clarity of that and avoiding the risk for extensive litigation on the matter should the question be brought up in that way.