The rights of gambling lords, child-beaters and rapists

…or, to put it another way, the rights of property owners, parents and people who have paid their debt to society.

What was in that SARC report whose tabling attracted Parliamentary debate? The Committee made significant comments on three bills:

First, the Gambling Regulation Amendment (Licensing) Bill 2008, which sets up some of the recently announced new arrangements for the licensing of gambling in Victoria. One provision of the bill provides ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ that certain past gaming licence holders and their agents and associates have neither an entitlement or a legitimate expectation to a future wagering, betting or keno licence. The Committee asked the Minister for Gaming whether or not any of the affected people are human beings (as opposed to companies), which would engage Charter s. 20.

Second, the Children’s Legislation Amendment BIll 2008, which makes a variety of changes to how young kids are cared for by paid or organised carers. One provision of the bill enhances an existing ban on corporal punishment and ‘discipline which is unreasonable in all the circumstances’. The Committee agreed with a UK House of Lords decision which held that a ban on corporal punishment is compatible with parents’ rights to freedom of religion (including beliefs about discipline.) However, it asked the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development what ‘discipline which is unreasonable in all the circumstances’ means and how carers are meant to know what it means.

Third, the Justice Legislation Amendment BIll 2008, which (amongst other things) extends the regime for (so-called) extended supervision orders to cover more offenders. The Committee, noting that such orders put enormous powers to curtail rights in the hands of the Adult Parole Board, which in turn is exempt from most regulation including Charter s. 38(1), asked the Minister for Corrections why the Board was exempt and referred the compatibility of the widening of such a body’s powers with the Charter to Parliament for its consideration. As well, the Committee, noting that existing offenders were captured by the extensions, observed that the New Zealand Court of Appeal held in 2006 that a very similar scheme amounted to punishment for the purposes of the rights against double jeopardy and retrospective penalties, and referred that issue of compatibility to Parliament as well. (This issue is a contender for the first attempt to get a court to make a declaration of inconsistent interpretation.) Finally, the Committee criticised the Statement of Compatibility for, amongst other things, failing to bring the New Zealand decision to Parliament’s attention.

What about the Police Integrity BIll, the focus of this week’s trouble? The Alert Digest contains the Police Minister’s response to SARC’s queries about the right to life, self-incrimination and fair hearings: respectively, that firearms can only be issued defensively, that immunities are limited to the Australian tradition of use immunities (rather than wider overseas approaches) and that resultings of compulsory questioning of people facing charges will not be passed on to prosecutors.

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