House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Questions without Notice

Age of Criminal Responsibility

2:46 pm

Kate Chaney (Curtin, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Attorney-General. The UN has expressed concern about the very low age of criminal responsibility in Australia. In WA, we are currently locking kids up in an adult prison. Will you make public the final report, prepared in 2020 by the council of attorneys-general, which allegedly shows the majority of state and territory attorneys-general were in favour of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years?

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Cabinet Secretary) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Curtin for her question. The report the member has mentioned, a report authorised by the Western Australian government, was the product of a former 'meeting' of Attorneys-General—sorry for making that precise distinction. The decision not to release it was made under the previous government. The paper was not written by the Commonwealth government, so there are steps that have to be taken in order for it to be released. I have instructed my department to include the release of the paper as an item for decision at the next meeting of the Standing Council of Attorneys-General, which met for the first time on 12 August this year. It was the first time there has been a physical meeting of attorneys-general for some three years. The former structure of the former government, of a 'meeting' of attorneys-general was the one responsible for this paper. So we will wait for that next meeting of the Standing Council of Attorneys-General, when the release of the paper will be discussed.

But I do appreciate the member's interest in this question of the minimum age of criminal responsibility. I am working closely with state and territory counterparts through the Standing Council of Attorneys-General to develop proposals about the minimum age of criminal responsibility. I'm working closely with the Minister for Indigenous Australians to address the very serious issue of overrepresentation of First Nations children in the criminal justice system, consistent with the obligation of all governments under the National Agreement on Closing The Gap.

At that meeting on 12 August, all attorneys-general agreed that an official's working group will continue to develop a proposal to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility, paying particular attention to that overrepresentation of First Nations children. The next meeting will be in December 2022. I note that some progress with this has already been made, because the government of the Northern Territory has introduced a bill already, and there is now a bill before the legislative assembly of the Northern Territory to raise the age of criminal responsibility.