Criminal Law (Extended Supervision Orders) Bill

Mr GARDNER: Yes, it is. It is my understanding that this is probably the only chance I will have to speak on this again before we send it back to the Legislative Council for their consequential consideration of—

The CHAIR: And you are going to take that opportunity?

Mr GARDNER: I am doing so right now—or, I was.

The CHAIR: Member for Morialta.

Mr GARDNER: —what the Attorney-General has described as a consequential amendment, and what might more accurately, I submit, be described as a drafting error. Which brings me to my point: when the government seeks, in these critically important bills that deal with legal matters and the nature of freedom, and whether people can run around doing their business or not, it sometimes pays to take a little bit of time and get it right.

When the government comes to the parliament with bills that it says have to be through both houses this afternoon otherwise the opposition is stalling the course of justice, then I counsel the government to stop doing that, because it does no-one any credit at all. This is another example.

There are two sets of amendments: one of them is the course of suggested amendments by the opposition in this place during the first consideration in the House of Assembly—amendments which we brought forward, having consulted widely, having spoken to the chair of the Parole Board, amongst others, who was one of the people the government assured us was dead supportive of their original bill. So, you can understand that we might have been somewhat surprised to find that she had some concerns, that we brought forward in amendments. I believe that, in the debate in this house, I made the point at the time that it was inevitable that the government would have to take those serious concerns that we had into account.

Members may recall that the bill seeks to provide a parole-like supervision framework for serious and high-risk offenders who have committed crimes of violence or of a sexual nature leading to gaol terms potentially of five years or more. At the end of their sentence, had they not undertaken rehabilitation, had they not undertaken the necessary work to show that they were going to potentially contribute to society and not pose an ongoing and serious risk to the community and to community safety, then those offenders needed to be subject to an ongoing what is called extended supervision order.

That would require the Parole Board to undertake that supervision, but what it did not do, if an order was breached by an offender, was give the Parole Board the opportunity to bring that person in. It created an offence of a breach of an extended supervision order which would have led to a potential punishment of five further years in prison.

We know that the courts are backlogged for six months at a time, we know that it is going to take a long time from somebody breaching an order for them to go to trial for that breach. The opposition submitted that, if somebody did breach an extended supervision order, bearing in mind that these are the most high-risk offenders imaginable—people who have committed serious crimes of sexual violence and violence—it was important that that person be brought in straightaway; otherwise, what is the point of having the order at all? What is the point of calling it a parole-like environment unless somebody is going to be brought in?

The opposition made that submission. The Attorney said that it was unnecessary. We pointed out that it was inevitable that he would have to change his mind because the proposition as put originally just did not make sense. The Attorney, to his credit, confirmed that, between the houses, we could have a discussion, and that discussion went back and forth for a while.

I thank the Attorney's staff for their work in this matter. I know that they worked hard. I acknowledge also the very constructive contribution by the Hon. Terry Stephens in the Legislative Council, who assisted, and of course the Parole Board chair, Frances Nelson, who in the end, I think, had a significant role in suggesting the form of words that have been described as 'continuing detention orders' in the bill as we now seek to pass it.

These continuing detention orders provided an alternative. Rather than just being a straight breach leading to presumption against bail and the person going back into prison, it provides in effect the same thing but without the Attorney having to identify that the opposition's amendments were exactly correct in the first place. In effect, it creates a process whereby somebody who is subject to a supervision order, and breaches that order, can be arrested and detained, and the Parole Board gives consideration as to whether that detention should be continuing or, if it is a minor or technical breach, that person can be then allowed to proceed.

The Legislative Council duly passed the amendments with the support of the opposition. Of course, even in these circumstances, drafting errors can happen and that is, in fact, the nature of the Attorney's subsequent amendment. It is not a consequential amendment: it is a drafting error. Drafting errors happen, but I think that it is salient for members to consider that, when the government comes to this house with bills that they want passed immediately without debate, without thinking about it, without public consultation and without so much as having a chance to run a ruler over the bill itself and ensure that there have not been errors, errors can be made.

The government has made one on this occasion. It is easily fixed, but I caution and I counsel the government, and I counsel anyone listening, anyone interested in these debates about justice issues, that there are serious consequences when the parliament makes mistakes of a technical and drafting nature or, indeed, when consultation is skipped, and when consideration by people such as, in this case, Frances Nelson, is seen as too inconvenient to deal with.

What is more critical is that we get it right because what might take an extra week or two in this place can have serious consequences for lives. A week or two to get it right is more than worthwhile. In this case, with this bill, I think we have got it right. I congratulate the government for getting there in the end. I know that it took a lot of hard work to get there from some members within the department and the minister's office, so I thank them and congratulate them for that work. I support the amendments, the opposition supports the amendments and we look forward to the passage of the bill.