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Mandatory Sentencing of Young People

Extract from Hansard [ASSEMBLY – Wednesday, 19 August 2009]

Ms A.S. CARLES to the Attorney General:

(1) Will the Attorney General please table any correspondence between him and the Commissioner for Children and Young People in relation to the Criminal Code Amendment Bill 2008, and the likely impact of mandatory sentencing on children in Western Australia?

(2) If no to (1), why not?

Mr C.C. PORTER replied:

I thank the member for her question.

(1)-(2) It is the case that I have received correspondence from the Commissioner for Children and Young People in relation to the bill that will bring about mandatory sentencing in this state for assaults on police officers. I am happy to table that correspondence. I have had several conversations with the commissioner. This was also the subject of a question on notice to me from one of the member’s colleagues in the other place, Hon Giz Watson.

To give some background to the discussions I had with the commissioner, a good starting point is section 19(g) of the Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2006. Section 19 sets out all the functions of the commissioner. Section 19(g) states


“to monitor and review written laws, draft laws, policies, practices and services affecting the
wellbeing of children and young people;”


That is most sensible; however, as I understand it, the provision does not suggest, and there is no literal interpretation of it that would provide for, any compulsion on the government of the day to send to the commissioner advance copies of draft legislation that would otherwise be covered by cabinet-inconfidence. That would be quite an extraordinary departure from standards of cabinet confidentiality and the way in which legislation is drafted. That is not to say that there will not be occasions when draft legislation may be forwarded by a relevant minister by choice to the commissioner to receive her assessment. I imagine that that type of legislation would be more of the ilk to which the commissioner would contribute some detailed input through the provision of any statistical or empirical evidence of impacts upon children that there might be, pursuant to the legislation. I had conversations with the commissioner after the Criminal Code Amendment Bill was drafted and presented to this house, and she presented her views. It is certainly fair to say that her preference would be for the legislation to not apply to juveniles. I have received her views; they are views with which the government in large part disagrees.

This highlights one of the difficulties of having commissioners of this type. In this case it is a matter of policy and mandate. The Liberal Party clearly went to an election on this issue, and it was central to our success in that election. We intend to pursue this legislation, although I have taken the commissioner’’s views on board. In fact, they are views of policy and philosophy rather than views about empirics, statistics or the nuts-and-bolts effects of the legislation.

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