Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Age of Criminal Responsibility

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (15:01): My questions are to the Attorney-General regarding the government's plan to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility:

1. How far has the minister progressed in plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility?

2. Which stakeholders has the Attorney-General met with to discuss this issue?

3. How much detail was discussed at the most recent national meeting of Attorneys-General?

4. Has the Attorney spoken to his ACT counterpart, Shane Rattenbury, about the approach and the approach taken in that jurisdiction as he committed on record to doing previously?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:02): I thank the honourable member for her question. I am trying to remember correctly, but the last meeting of the Standing Council of Attorneys-General was in Darwin and it was a number of months ago. The minimum age of criminal responsibility certainly was raised at that meeting and there is a national working party that continues to do work on a model, or models, that would look at what is in place of a criminal justice intervention or a criminal justice response.

Certainly, I have been pleased to avail myself to what is occurring in the Northern Territory, not just with the Attorney-General in the Northern Territory, who is a member of the cabinet, from the Greens in the ACT government, but also with other ministers like Minister Stephen-Smith, who is Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the ACT government, about their model and where they are progressing. I have also discussed the matter with my colleague the Hon. Chansey Paech, who is the minister in the Northern Territory.

The Northern Territory, of course, have also announced raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the work that they are doing. Most recently, I have discussed the matter with the minister in Victoria. After the Victorian election, there was an announcement that the Victorian government would raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the work that is being undertaken there. Certainly the work that is being undertaken in the state continues. It's not at a stage to take anything out to external stakeholders at this stage, but that doesn't mean there haven't been quite a number of external stakeholders who have wanted to talk to the government about their views on how they see it working.

There being a disturbance:

The PRESIDENT: Attorney, can you just wait until the Hon. Mr Wortley has had his phone call.

The Hon. R.P. Wortley: I'll only be a minute.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Wortley!

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: That work continues in terms of what the state government is doing. As I have said before, we are looking at not just what the two territories and Victoria have done but also Tasmania—who are raising the minimum age of detention rather than the minimum age of criminal responsibility, which is how they are tackling this issue—and right around the world, the many international jurisdictions that are doing this.

Our work continues on two levels as a South Australian government. As I have said, we don't have a fixed policy position. It is something we are looking at, though. The primary concern, as I have stated a number of times, is the safety of the community. Certainly, there is emerging evidence that with young people, particularly very young people—10 and 11 year olds, and what a number of the other jurisdictions in Australia have done is: initially to 12 with an ambition to raise it to 14—community safety may actually be enhanced by not having those young people come under the auspices of the criminal justice system but some sort of therapeutic or family support system.

The South Australian government continues to do that work on two levels, that is, the contribution to the national work that's being done under the auspices of the Standing Council of Attorneys-General and also the work we are doing as a state government and, should we go down this path, how it will look.