Monday, 15 June 2020
Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019; In Committee
Just to be clear, no-one in this debate is arguing that heinous crimes such as that should not attract appropriate sentences. I just want to place that on the record. Having said that, most of your answer was completely irrelevant to the question that I asked. In terms of the Attorney-General needing to sign off, I believe you said that relates to minors. That is not the question I asked. I asked about an 18-year-old offender—not a minor—who is obviously still a teenager. Eighteen-year-olds, no matter their sex, can be very emotionally immature—
An honourable senator: And still at school.
And still at school—absolutely. As I understand your answer, the only part of your answer that was relevant to the question I asked was the bit about prosecutorial discretion. What you're saying is that the Senate should be satisfied on the basis of an unknown decision made by an unknown prosecutor that they won't prosecute so-called sweetheart arrangements, when in fact the sweetheart arrangements—including the example I just gave, the example of an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old exchanging sexual images or body images and sexual stories on Snapchat—could attract a mandatory minimum penalty of five years under this legislation.
Let's be clear here, Minister. You're asking us to accept a prosecutorial decision or an investigative decision made by someone—we don't know who they are; we don't know what prejudices might exist in their lives—and saying that that should satisfy the Senate, when actually, if a prosecution is launched and someone is found guilty of these offences, you could end up in a situation where someone who is 18 years and one day old could face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in some circumstances or of six years in other circumstances. In a situation where an 18-year-old is one of the coaches of a sporting team of which his 15-year-old girlfriend is a member and he has sex with his girlfriend while the team is on an overseas trip, that 18-year-old would face a mandatory minimum penalty of seven years imprisonment. And you're asking us to accept, Minister, that an unknown decision that you hope might happen in the future, made by someone that we don't know—we don't know what their training is; we don't know what their expertise in assessing public interest is—should satisfy the Senate. Well, it doesn't satisfy me. That's why the Australian Greens maintain their strong opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing in this legislation.