Northern Territory Second Reading Speeches

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Ms LAWRIE (Justice and Attorney-General): Madam Speaker, I move that the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to modernise penalty provisions in most of the acts administered by the Department of Justice. This bill updates penalty units and related matters for some 69 acts and regulations within the responsibility of the Department of Justice. All penalties and legislation are being review by the Department of Justice in conjunction with other agencies. The aim of the review is to ensure that penalty levels are reasonably consistent across the statute book, and that they have an appropriate deterrent of effect. Member will be aware that hard, fast rules do not apply when parliament sets maximum penalties in legislation. At the end of the day, there is always an element of subjective decision-making about what should be the maximum penalty for the worst case breach of a provision.

The Department of Justice does, however, have a penalty policy created over the past 10 years, which is applied during the review process for consistency. In examining the penalty levels, it should be remember that the
Interpretation Act also applies so that, first, under section 38DB, cooperate offenders are liable to a maximum fine of five times the amount specified as the penalty; second, for an offence when the only listed penalty is imprisonment, the court also has a discretion to impose a fine in addition to, or as an alternative to, imprisonment. The maximum fine in such situation is determined in accordance with a formula set out in section 38DA of the Interpretation Act; that is, the fine is 100 penalty units per 12 months of the maximum term of imprisonment.

This bill amends the maximum penalties for breaching the provision in the
Criminal Code relating to perverting the course of justice from two years imprisonment to 15 years. This amendment was made following suggestions made by the judges of the Supreme Court to reflect the seriousness of this offence. The other amendments include the inclusion of the word ‘maximum’ in many penalties where that word is not used. This amendment does not affect the meaning of ‘penalty provision’, as the Interpretation Act in section 38C provides that the word ‘penalty’ used in offence provision means ‘maximum penalty’. The amendment is intended to provide clarity for the reader.

Madam Speaker, the balance of the department’s legislation is expected to be reviewed in the next 12 months. In broad terms, the revised penalties conform to the general level of penalties contained in Territory legislation enacted since commencement in 1999 of the
Penalties Act. I commend the bill to honourable members and I table a copy of the explanatory statement.

Debate adjourned.


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