ACT Labor’s plan for a fair, just and equitable society

ACT Labor is making Canberra an even better place to live, work, study and play.  We are building a better community, one which has a strong local economy and more jobs than ever before.

ACT Labor is committed to a fair, just and equitable society and we continue to deliver an extensive program of justice and law reform.

ACT Labor was the first Australian Government to legislate a Human Rights Act in 2004 and has a proud history of protecting the human rights of all Canberrans.

Most recently we passed legislation that provides a right to education for all Canberrans – an Australian first for enshrining a social, cultural or economic right in law and sets an important precedent for other governments to follow.

ACT Labor also has a proud history of law reform when it comes to equality for all Canberrans.  It was ACT Labor who progressed civil unions legislation, again showing leadership on a national stage.

But there is more to do and ACT Labor plans to build on our strong law reform record.

If re-elected, ACT Labor will undertake a raft of legislative reform projects, including:

Reform arrangements for judicial officer complaints handling

Introduce unexplained wealth legislation into the Territory to ensure that people do not benefit from illegal and unlawful activities

Develop the ACT’s own privacy legislation, including examining the area of statutory cause of action for privacy

Expand the ACT’s human rights legislation to include the right to housing

Legislate to remove discrimination and improve recognition in the area of sex and gender identity

Introduce legislation to provide for an industrial magistrates court

Tightening up regulation around the use of gift cards

ACT Labor will also fund a dedicated legal position to research justice reinvestment initiatives and develop new opportunities to engage detainees in paid employment.

 

Policy costings

ACT Labor’s plan for a fair, just and more equitable society: Justice and Law reform

Legislative reform

ACT Labor’s legislative reform package is able to be delivered within existing resources.

Justice Reinvestment

A Senior Legal Officer 2 will be funded to undertake legal research required to undertake an audit and gaps analysis of current ACT justice reinvestment programs across government.

 

2013-2014

2014 -2015

2015 – 2016

2016 – 2017

TOTAL

Recurrent (Legal Officer 2)*

$0.159

$0.164m

$0.169m

$0.174m

$0.666m

Total

$0.159m

$0.164m

$0.169m

$0.174m

$0.666m

*Salary costs have been indexed at 3% in line with the Standard Costing Parameters 2012.  The midpoint salary in the band has been selected and superannuation and administration on-costs are as per the Standard Costing Parameters.

 

Detainee employment

 

2013-2014

2014 -2015

2015 – 2016

2016 – 2017

TOTAL

Recurrent

$0.229m

$0.236m

$0.243m

$0.250m

$0.958m

Total

$0.229m

$0.236m

$0.243m

$0.250m

$0.958m

*Recurrent funding includes the cost of one ASO6 for administration and one Correctional Officer Class 1 (with the standard Correctional Services 30% loading requirement).  It also includes the Correctional Services specific Workers Compensation rate of 10.7 %. Salary indexation is at 3 per cent, consistent with the Standard Costing Parameters 2012. A uniform allowance ($2,000) has been included. Recurrent funding does not include funds for payment of work related remuneration for detainees.

 

Policy Initiatives – Justice and Law reform

Legislative reform

The raft of legislative reform an ACT Labor Government will tackle includes establishing a judicial commission to examine complaints about judicial officers, adopting unexplained wealth laws in the ACT, strengthening privacy in the Territory, continuing the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights in the ACT, legislating to improve the recognition of Canberrans who identify as sex and gender diverse, creating an Industrial Magistrates Court and legislating in the area of gift cards.

 

Judicial complaints framework

While the ACT currently has legislative mechanisms in place for the establishment of a judicial commission to examine complaints about judicial officers referred by the Attorney-General, there is currently no framework that deals with less serious complaints.  Legislative reform in this area will introduce greater transparency and accountability in the handling of complaints about judicial officers in ACT courts.

Under proposed legislation, the head of jurisdiction will be able to decide whether or not to handle a complaint and may then pursue a range of options, including dismissal of the complaint, handling of the complaint, or arranging for the complaint to be handled by another judicial officer or appointed panel.  This reform will provide an appropriate framework for less serious complaints and lend transparency to the complaint management process.

 

Unexplained wealth laws

Since 2009, the ACT Labor Government has taken a number of steps to address organised crime in the ACT.  The next step will be to consider the adoption of unexplained wealth laws. Unexplained wealth provisions allow for the forfeiture of assets without a criminal conviction where it appears a person’s wealth is greater than their legally acquired wealth.  A person is required to forfeit any wealth that they cannot explain.  Unexplained wealth provisions complement other confiscation of criminal assets legislative frameworks to ensure that people do not benefit from illegal and unlawful activities.

Unexplained wealth provisions are a significant tool to fight organised crime as they focus on a philosophy that removes the profits of crime, create a disincentive to the establishment of serious and organised crime and prevent criminals reinvesting profits back into the crime cycle.  Unexplained wealth provisions are currently in place in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, the Commonwealth and New South Wales.

 

ACT privacy legislation

The protection of privacy is also an element of ACT Labor’s commitment to the progressive realisation of human rights in the ACT.  The ACT is the only Australian jurisdiction in which the public sector is regulated by Commonwealth privacy law.  In recognition of the ACT as a truly self-governing territory, there is clear justification for the ACT to develop its own privacy legislation.  The Government has already prepared an exposure draft to repatriate privacy law for the regulation of the public sector in the Territory by adopting the Commonwealth Act, as it applies to public sector agencies.

Additionally, ACT Labor believes it would be desirable to look at introducing a statutory cause of action for privacy, something not yet covered in Australian jurisdictions.  A statutory cause of action to protect against serious invasions of privacy would provide an additional remedy for breaches of privacy and would be a practical additional mechanism for the protection and promotion of privacy in the ACT.  Such a statutory cause of action may also help to establish social norms as to what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, particularly in relation to the use of new technologies.

 

Human Rights reform – housing

As part of ACT Labor’s commitment to the progressive realisation of human rights in the ACT and considerations of the expansion of the Human Rights Act 2004 to include the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, ACT Labor will legislate specifically for the right to housing.  Article 11(1) of ICESCR states that every person has a right to an ‘adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing’.  In general, the right to adequate housing is viewed as a ‘right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity’.

This right has been considered an important right for Australians for many years and recently consultation at the national level confirmed that housing is one of the rights that matter most to Australians. International law provides that the right to housing has a number of elements, including: availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality.

 

Recognition of sex and gender diverse Canberrans

A core belief of ACT Labor is that there must be equal recognition under ACT law for all Canberrans and protection of people from discrimination on the basis of race, class, religion, political belief, gender, age, sexual preference or physical or mental capacity.  There is room in this area to improve recognition of those who identify as sex and gender diverse.

A recent report by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council highlights some desirable areas of reform, including the need for correct and consistent terminology for sex and gender diverse people in ACT legislation to enable equal access to services for all people in the Territory, as well as bolstering legal recognition of a person’s sex or gender identity.

 

Industrial Magistrates Court

In the ACT there are no specialist arrangements in place for the management of the jurisdiction related to work, health and safety matters. All other states and territories in Australia, except Tasmania, have specialist arrangements within their Magistrates Court jurisdiction for the hearing of issues related to workplace health and safety, including workplace accidents and deaths, either as part of an Industrial Magistrates Court or Division or as Industrial Magistrates.

The establishment of an industrial magistrates court in the ACT would allow for the development of a greater experience and understanding of the particular issues that arise in workplace health and safety law. Recognition of work health and safety jurisdiction as a specialist area will provide an opportunity for specialist procedures and the development of expertise in these matters.

 

Gift card regulation

ACT Labor will continue to investigate options to protect consumers in the use of gift cards, ensuring there is a fair and consistent structure in place to regulate their usage.

 

Justice reinvestment

Justice reinvestment refers to an evidence based approach to criminal justice that includes analysing the causes of crime and incarceration, implementing targeted policies and programs to address these causes and evaluating the impact of these measures to inform future work. Through justice reinvestment a small reduction in recidivism can result in significant improvements for community safety and, longer term, a commensurate reduction of costs in the correctional system.

The average daily prison population figure (both sentenced and remand) in the ACT has increased in recent years, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander offenders. Further, as the ACT has the highest population of 15-19 year olds across all states and territories, it is timely to focus on a strategy that acknowledges work with ‘at risk’ young offenders through diversionary methods of justice coupled with community based support for high risk and complex corrective services clients

 

Detainee employment

Many detainees come from dysfunctional domestic and social circumstances where the social and personal benefits of work are absent.  By expanding employment opportunities for detainees, ACT Labor will be contributing to lowering the rate of recidivism by assisting detainees, on release, to be self reliant and self supporting breadwinners for themselves and their dependents.  This is part of the overall rehabilitation strategy ACT Labor has been delivering on.