Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I rise to speak briefly on what I think is one of the most unnecessary pieces of legislation we have seen, the Crimes Amendment (Carjacking and Home Invasion) Bill 2016. Apparently this bill creates new offences of carjacking, aggravated carjacking, home invasion and aggravated home invasion. I do not know whether anybody else has been looking at different acts to me, but these are already crimes. It is already a crime to steal a car. In fact it actually has the same penalties as this. I am not sure; it seems that many people in this house think that if we change the name of the crime then people will not do it. Maybe people did not realise that stealing a car is stealing. So now if we call it carjacking, people will think, ‘I didn’t realise. That’s theft’.
Ms Crozier — It is not stealing, it is carjacking.
Ms PATTEN — Aggravated burglary is what carjacking is. It is aggravated burglary; it is nothing else. It is exactly the same thing. In fact when these offences of aggravated burglary and aggravated assault go before a court, they will question which one to charge the person under — under which offence to prosecute the person. Do they choose aggravated burglary, do they choose aggravated assault or do they choose aggravated carjacking or carjacking? I encourage you all to look at section 75 of the Crimes Act 1958 and read what robbery is and what burglary is. I look forward to hearing how you see the difference in them. But listen, if this is what we want — if we want, ‘I’ve got an act for that’ approach to our crimes legislation — then okay.
I cannot believe that creating these so-called offences or, as I would say, changing the names of existing offences is going to somehow decrease crime. Somehow a young person is going to say, ‘Well, now that they’ve got an act, now that they’ve got this special name for this, I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m sorry. I’ve seen the error. I hadn’t realised’. I am not swayed by this. I am not swayed that this is going to reduce crime or dissuade potential offenders.
I get it that we are seeing in certain areas possible increases in crime. I get that, and I get that people are reoffending, but do we think that sending people to jail is stopping them from reoffending? No, it is not. Do you think that changing the name of the crimes will somehow stop people from offending or reoffending? No, it will not. In fact I would like to change the name of this bill. I would like to call it the Herald Sun Bill, because I think it is a Herald Sun headline bill. This is where we get this legislation from.
Ms Crozier — You are out of touch.
Ms PATTEN — I will take up Ms Crozier’s interjection. I am not out of touch. I have every understanding of the crimes. I live in the Northern Metropolitan Region, and I have every appreciation of the increase in guns in my community, of the increase in some violent crime in my community — —
Ms Crozier interjected.
Ms PATTEN — I will keep speaking through the Chair and I will keep speaking on my notes to this. Changing the names of crimes is not going to change the crime. It is not going to improve the outcomes of this. If you want to change the name of a crime, that is fine, or if you want to add new names to it — if you want to call it carjilling or carjacking — that is fine, but it is the mandatory sentencing that I think is of greatest concern. Certainly from the Australian Sex Party’s perspective it is the mandatory sentencing that I think is of greatest concern. Like Ms Pennicuik, I also read Liberty Victoria’s submission to this. It is taking away the judicial power — and rightfully it is the judicial power — and passing it back to us. I have a lot of respect for you in this house, but I am not sure that we should be in charge of sentencing. I think I would like to leave that to the judiciary.
I actually think they have been doing a pretty good job for the last couple of hundred years, and I think this separation of the executive from the courts is not a bad thing.
Again, when we look at the offences of aggravated burglary and aggravated carjacking, or aggravated home invasion, as I say, they are one and the same. We are now going to have prosecutors deciding which one to charge on. The whole purpose of having discretion in sentencing is to take into account the offender’s personal situation so a sentencing judge can take the most appropriate course. Having this one-size-fits-all approach is not going to allow them to do that.
What is also concerning — and we have been talking about the numbers of children on remand, the numbers of young people on remand and the numbers of people on remand in our jails — is that we know one of the outcomes of mandatory sentencing is that people are less likely to plead guilty, so we are going to see more people on remand as a result of more mandatory sentencing. We are going to see more pain. We are going to extend out the pain for victims because the court cases are going to take longer.
Mandatory sentencing has never been a good thing. I have yet to hear anyone talk about the positive effects of mandatory sentencing. I would like to quote Justice Mildren from the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory:
Prescribed minimum mandatory sentencing provisions are the very antithesis of just sentences. If a court thinks that a proper just sentence is the prescribed minimum or more, the minimum prescribed penalty is unnecessary. It therefore follows that the sole purpose of a prescribed minimum mandatory sentencing regime is to require sentencers —judges —to impose heavier sentences than would be proper according to the justice of the case.
We have heard about all of this sort of ratcheting up, getting hard on crime, the crime tsunami, introducing super-max jails for young people and, even today, the naming and shaming of young offenders, as if somehow this is going to deter people from offending and somehow, if we keep increasing the rhetoric, if we keep increasing the sentences and if we keep changing the names of the crimes, this will somehow stop young people from offending. I do not think there is anyone that can prove or that can provide any evidence that that is a successful model. In fact I think we know very well that locking up young people for prolonged periods of time does exactly the opposite. Locking up young people for long periods of time will make them more likely to offend, not less likely to offend, and we know this is so in every single jurisdiction.
In fact I was just having lunch with a Californian, who was retelling the stories of the effects of mandatory sentencing over there. Their jail population exploded, their crime rates did not decrease, they did not see less crime over there and they did not see less violence in the street. All they saw was a greater prison population and, as a result, a greater level of criminals and people reoffending and a greater level of recidivism.
This change will not be positive. I appreciate the very personal stories that Ms Lovell told when she spoke about one of her constituents, and the same with Ms Bath. But, I am sorry, I do not believe that introducing mandatory sentences or changing the names of laws that already exist will do anything towards helping to reduce crime. I do not believe helping to make our young people, who are obviously so disenfranchised and so out of touch with our society, even further disenfranchised and further disaffected will somehow improve our crime rates. This is not the way we need to go.
As Ms Pennicuik quite rightly said, justice reinvestment is something that is evidence based, is shown to have results and is shown to have reduced crime. This is where we should be focusing, not trying on this sort of hard on crime approach. Going hard on crime would be about reducing crime, and this legislation will not reduce crime. Going hard on crime should be about working out ways to reduce crime.
I have proposed decriminalising drugs. Now, that would take a whole bunch of people out of our criminal system. It would enable us to put resources into reducing recidivism, ensuring that young people who end up in our justice system do not stay in our justice system. Those are the sorts of issues that we should be looking at and should be discussing, not whether we change ‘aggravated burglary’ to ‘aggravated carjacking’ or change ‘aggravated assault’ to ‘aggravated home invasion’. We have still got the same maximum penalties on a lot of these crimes, but this is just introducing minimum sentencing. We know that does not work. That has never worked.
I cannot support this bill. No doubt the Herald Sun will. I will not put up an amendment, but I do think this should be called the Herald Sun bill.