The Attorney-General indicated at the time the legislation was announced that the NT would develop its own law after a recent Council of Australian Governments meeting rejected the idea of a national sex offender register. The then-Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, indicated that Queensland would not support legislation that may encourage vigilantes against offenders. In May 2015, other jurisdictions indicated they would not provide information about offenders from the CrimTrac database (a database which enables the sharing of information about offenders between state police forces for policing purposes) for the website, meaning that the information for the website would have to be obtained and maintained manually by government staff reading through court and criminal records. Western Australia do have a register with similar information but there are limitations on what and how information may be accessed by the public.
Russell Goldflam, president of the NT Criminal Lawyers Association, has indicated that data after the introduction of similar laws in the United States (Megan’s Law) does not indicate that such registers reduce the number of sex offences — but rather shows that it makes it harder for offenders to rehabilitate and increases the possibility that they will reoffend. The NT Law Society has indicated it generally supports evidence-based policy, and also advised it was not consulted on the Bill before it was introduced.
Given that the Country Liberal Party is now in a minority government, after Speaker Kezia Purick’s resignation from the party in July 2015, the government will need support from the Opposition and independent members in order to pass the Bill. The members of the Opposition and the independent members have not yet indicated whether they will support the legislation but the Labor party and Kezia Purick have indicated that the proposed law will require serious consideration and consultation before the debate.
SUE ERICKSON is an Assistant Parliamentary Counsel for the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, Northern Territory government.