Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019; Consideration of House of Representatives Message
If I could first address the matter I've spoken to Senator Cormann about—that is, to acknowledge that the government did inform our team that this matter would be proceeded with now. That message did not make its way to us in the chamber due to a technical issue, so that's the reason we voted against the previous motion put by Senator Cormann. We in the Australian Greens don't want this bill to be unnecessarily held up, because we share the view just espoused by Senator Watt that there is a lot in this bill, as I said in my second reading contribution yesterday, which is meritorious and which is supported by the Australian Greens. Now that the government has shifted its position and accepted the necessity of a three-year review into that legislation, that has taken care of one of the concerns that the Greens articulated yesterday and was encapsulated in one of the amendments that we put yesterday.
However, unlike the Labor Party, we still believe and stand to our position that mandatory sentencing should not be in this legislation. That's because it creates the very real potential for miscarriages of justice. I accept the assurance Senator Cormann has just given, which was also given by the government yesterday, that people under the age of 18 will not be caught by the mandatory sentencing provisions in this bill. However, you can be a teenager and still be over the age of 18. If a teenager just over the age of 18 engages in various behaviours that are caught by this legislation with a partner who is under the age of 16, even by one day, then that person who could just be one or two days over the age of 18 will be caught by the mandatory sentencing provisions of this legislation.
It is absolutely critical to the Australian Greens that judges be left to impose sentences based on their consideration of the merits of each individual case which comes before them. That's why we pay them the big dollars. That's why we have an independent judiciary—so that justice can be done. We retain the concern that we articulated yesterday—that this will create the very real possibility of significant miscarriages of justice and will result in teenage Australians being imprisoned for, in some circumstances, seven years, with judges being given no real discretion to reduce those sentences except in the case of a guilty plea, which can only reduce the sentence by 25 per cent under the provisions of this legislation.
We do not believe that the Senate should not insist on its amendments. We believe that the Senate should insist on its amendments. The government could then accept that in the lower house and have the rest of this bill passed today, if the government was so minded. So this is not delaying the enactment of this bill or the royal assent to this bill in any way whatsoever. If the government would simply remove its ideological commitment to mandatory sentencing, this matter could proceed. We could remove the only elements of this bill that are now not supported by the Australian Greens—the mandatory sentencing provisions—and the rest of this legislation, which has the full support of the Australian Greens, could pass through the parliament today.
The CHAIR: Before I put the motion, I am assuming that all senators standing are participating in the vote. The question is that the committee does not insist on its amendments.