Wednesday, 19 August 2015
Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015; In Committee
We have noted the concerns that have been raised in your question, Senator Xenophon, and in the comments that were made by Senator Collins as well. We note the concerns in relation to mandatory minimum sentencing; however, we believe that the introduction of these penalties will send a strong deterrent message to those who would otherwise engage in firearm trafficking.
The Law Council of Australia has suggested that the presence of mandatory minimum sentences reduces the likelihood of offenders pleading guilty, as offenders are aware that a guilty plea will still result in the prescribed minimum sentence. However, we have not attached a nonparole period to mandatory minimum sentences. This will ensure that there is still an incentive to enter a guilty plea, as the particular circumstances of each case will be considered by the court, and the sentencing judge will still be able to exercise his or her discretion in determining the amount of time that an offender will spend in custody.
In relation to your comments, Senator Lazarus, we are happy to have a conversation about increased penalties, but we also need to think seriously about the policy implications of this. We believe that the mandatory minimum sentence of five years will act as a strong deterrent for those who would otherwise engage in illegal firearm trafficking. It is a policy that we have considered in conjunction with states and territories. We think it is important to prevent these crimes and we believe that what we are offering here is a preventative measure, not a cure. We are open to any measures that could stop illegal guns at the border, but we also need to think about the ramifications of quickly moving through an amendment like this without consulting with our law enforcement agencies, our prosecution agencies and the states and territories.
During my comments I also raised some of the questions about the possibility of this amendment and the potential perverse effects of that. We think that these considerations are important, and we should consult on them through the channels such as the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council and the Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group. We think that mandatory minimum sentences do send a strong message to criminals: try and smuggle illegal drugs into the country and you will get caught.
As I said, the government is prepared to have a conversation about increased penalties as well but that conversation should involve proper consultation and the consideration of its implications. For that reason, the government will not be supporting Senator Lazarus's amendment.
The CHAIRMAN: The question is that amendment (1) on sheet 7748 be agreed to.