Thursday 13 June 2013


Hansard of the Legislative Council



Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, Tasmania's youth justice system has long needed fixing. As the second reading speech explained, this has been long in the making. What we are considering today was approved some time ago in the other place. It is a complicated proposal and the result of many reviews to bring Tasmania's youth justice legislation in line with contemporary thinking about the rehabilitation of young offenders before they reach the stage of adult offenders and become habitual offenders with far less chance of rehabilitation.

After the Legislative Council select committee review into the Ashley Youth Justice Detention Centre in 2007, there was initial consultation with the people involved in the youth justice system which raised a number of issues. Two of them I consider crucial to the concept of rehabilitating young offenders and getting them back into the community as useful members of society - diverting young people from the court system and additional sentencing options. The court system can involve delays which prevent young offenders getting jobs and getting on with their lives. I mentioned in the chamber recently that there was a young chap who was trying to do 300 hours of community service and he could not get on with his life. He could not get a job because he had that commitment to those penalties, deserved as they may have been. Magistrates are already taking additional sentencing options which are more likely to lead to rehabilitation.

I will quote from the second reading:

… reconfirmed the underlying principles of the act, which are accountability and restorative justice, encouraging young people who offend to take responsibility for their acts and restore the harm done to victims and the community.

That initial consultation process provided a way forward, which led to this enlightened bill. The concepts and principles that informed the amendments we are considering are listed in the second reading speech. They are carefully considered, eminently logical and will have the desired effect of helping young people who are going through a difficult time in their growing up. It will help them to become constructive and law-abiding adults, one would hope.

Cost pressures affected some of the original measures, including community service. This is a pity because community service orders have great rehabilitation potential. They should not be seen as a punishment but as an opportunity.

Ms Rattray - They show the community that people who do not do the right thing are back in the community making amends for their ways. It is a good opportunity for them to be back in the community.

Mr FINCH - I use that word, and it is one that has resonated with me, too. While I am happy about the way this bill deals with the issue, I would like to see a lot more investigation into that potential of community service. Why can it not be extended to incorporate on-the-job training? Why cannot community service end up in that job opportunity? Why cannot community service become something more useful altogether, by extending it into the private job sector with appropriate supervision? That might be an extrapolation of where we are today. I believe those are the sorts of issues that need to be looked at in the future. Properly resourced community service is far preferable and more effective than incarceration in Ashley, even though it is in the beautiful district of the Western Tiers electorate. This situation would be better for offenders, better for the community and no doubt it will be better for the budget.

Mr President, I strongly support the intentions of this bill.

Mr Hall - Before you sit down, you say that it is preferable to having an institution like Ashley, but if you get habitual, hardcore offenders, what do you do? What do you with some of those people?

Mr FINCH - That is the conundrum, isn't it? As we have seen, with the concern that you have expressed and brought to this place constantly about the role that Ashley plays in our community, it is appropriate that the resources are still there. In the world in which we live and the way we are functioning in Tasmania, and the need for these young people to be supported as best we can in a place that does play a role at this time, of course we have to give every chance to those people who may be early offenders. That is what I am suggesting here: before they become those habitual adult criminals, we as a society need to do the best that we can to make sure that they have that opportunity to develop and grow. They might be from those backgrounds that do not give them that support they desperately need.

Of course we all make mistakes. As I say to young people, if you are not making mistakes you are not making anything. That is the path down which we have all trodden. We have all been there. We have all made mistakes.

Members interjecting.

Mr FINCH - Except for the member for Western Tiers.

Mr Dean - There but for the grace of God, go I.

Mr FINCH - Yes. But you would know, member for Windermere. You have dealt with the process through your years as a police officer. You have seen yourself some of the old-style policing that I might refer back to, where the old-fashioned copper, in a lot of ways, knew how to deal with young people but did not - 'crucify' is probably not the right word but - crucify them for the mistakes that they made but tried to steer them away and set them on a better course. You can be too heavy-handed, but I am not so naïve as to not know that there are some that require more help than others. I am sure that some stories could unfold about what you have witnessed, member for Windermere.

As a society and through this bill we have to try to do the best we can to make sure our young people are given that signal that we want them to come away from the situation they have found themselves in and to forge a better future for themselves and, subsequently, for Tasmania.

Ms Rattray - Before the honourable member leaves the podium, are you aware of any people with the ability to supervise community service orders? That has been an issue in the past.

Mr FINCH - Had I had that at the front of my mind I might have introduced that into my second reading contribution but, no, I am not aware of this issue. Even my reference to somebody with community orders was just a one-off situation or just a bit of information that came to me.

Ms Rattray - I will ask the honourable leader, he might have some idea.

Mr FINCH - Thanks, Mr President.