: DUAO - Vol 38(1)

DUAO - 2013 - Vol 38(1)

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Developments around the country

DownUnderAllOver is a round-up of legal news from both State and federal jurisdictions, and contains topical articles and short pieces from Alternative Law Journal committees around the country.

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NSW government targets vulnerable parents

Liz Snell
New South Wales

Towards the end of 2012, the NSW government released a Discussion Paper for comment entitled Child Protection: Legislative Reform, Legislative Proposals.

The paper includes 29 proposals. It canvasses ideas such as removing the requirement to establish the need for care and protection before making a (newly proposed) parent capacity order. It suggests legislating a time frame (within six months for children less than two years and within twelve months for children older than two years) in which to achieve restoration of children to their parents before permanency planning, including adoption, is pursued. The paper also proposes amending the Adoption Act to provide additional grounds for dispensing with parental consent, including where a parent cannot be located. Women’s Legal Services NSW believes that such a proposal will have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

(2013) 38(1) AltLJ 58

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‘One Punch’ legislation commenced in the Northern Territory

Sue Erickson
Northern Territory

During the legislative assembly sittings in November 2012, the Parliament passed the Criminal Code Amendment (Violent Act Causing Death) Act. This Act amends the Criminal Code Act and the Sentencing Act by creating a new criminal offence: if a person engages in conduct involving a violent act to another person, and the act causes the death of that person (or any other person), the defendant is liable to a maximum penalty of 16 years imprisonment. The legislation is intended to ‘close the gap’ in the Criminal Code by creating a charge that can be used when manslaughter is too difficult to prove. The Attorney-General had previously introduced similar bills in November 2011 and March 2012 as the then shadow Attorney-General. The introduction of this legislation was an election promise of the Country Liberal Party, which took power after winning the general election on 25 August 2012.

(2013) 38(1) AltLJ 58

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Mandatory sentencing reinvigorated

Eugene Schofield
Northern Territory

In August 2012, Northern Territorians elected a Country Liberal Party government which promised to get ‘tough on crime’. On 29 November 2012, the government introduced the Sentencing Amendment (Mandatory Minimum Sentence) Bill into the NT Parliament. The Bill proposes a system by which offences are ranked in accordance with their seriousness by reference to a set of ‘objective criteria’ such as whether the offence involved an ‘offensive weapon’, ‘harm to the victim’ and whether the offender had similar prior convictions. In effect, the legislation takes away the discretion of judges and magistrates to sentence in accordance with the facts. Not unexpectedly, this is a system that creates disproportionate sentencing outcomes.

(2013) 38(1) AltLJ 59

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Changes to NT evidence law

Ruth Brebner
Northern Territory
In other news affecting criminal lawyers in the Northern Territory, the Evidence (National Uniform Legislation) Act (NT) commenced operation on 1 January 2013. This followed the 2006 review of the uniform evidence jurisdictions by the Australian Law Reform Commission in Uniform Evidence Law (ALRC Report 102), as well as a supportive recommendation by the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee Report in the Uniform Evidence Act, also in 2006.
(2013) 38(1) AltLJ 59

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News from Queensland

Allan Ardill and Kate Galloway
Queensland

As this column goes to print, the Newman LNP government will reach 12 months in office. Its original landslide electoral victory has suffered a blow with mining magnate Clive Palmer resigning from the LNP, three LNP MLAs defecting, and a discernible drop in the opinion polls. Still with 75 of the 89 seats and only one house of parliament, we can expect to see more controversy as the LNP implements its conservative agenda. This includes Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie’s review of Right to Information legislation on the basis that ‘too much public scrutiny is scaring people away from becoming politicians.’ The rate and extent of change is likely to remain rapid and far-reaching although as this example illustrates, not necessarily in a forward direction as reform is commonly conceived.

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