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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20092

Senator CHRIS EVANS (11:15 AM) —I am a bit caught on how to respond to this issue. I do not have any instructions in the sense that it is not an issue that we have looked at in detail. It was not part of our consideration of the bill. I must admit that Senator Bartlett has raised some concerns in my mind about this. I hear what the minister has to say. I am also conscious that some of the civil libertarians on my side like Senator Cooney will have me hung, drawn and quartered if I agree to something that—

Senator Abetz —Take a punt!

Senator CHRIS EVANS —As Senator Abetz would know, Senator Cooney would take a keen interest in such an issue. This is one of those occasions when the Democrats are arguing for the status quo and the government are the radicals. My general inclination in these things is to go with the status quo unless convinced. I accept that there may be a problem. I am just loath to—

Senator Newman —Can I assist you?

Senator CHRIS EVANS —I am happy for you to have another go, Minister. I just indicate that at this stage, subject to being convinced—because Senator Bartlett has raised some serious concerns—I would be inclined to vote with him and, therefore, leave the status quo in place. That is because I do not feel abreast of the argument rather than anything else. I have not had the chance to look at this more closely. I will be interested in what you and Senator Bartlett have to say. At this stage, as I say, I am not across the issue in the detail that one would want to be in making that decision. I have not had a chance to look at the DPP's advice or at any sort of justification. Senator Bartlett does raise some issues which concern me. Obviously his comments about understanding the complex workings of the minds of judges and their sentencing is a fair point. Often a judge just comes down and says, `You have got nine months,' and that is it. I am not sure how then this is intended to work. But I am happy for the minister to provide further advice. I am happy for Senator Bartlett to push his case but, in a sense—and I do not mind admitting it—this debate has come upon me when I am a bit unprepared, in the sense that I have not thought through the issues deeply. Basically, I am a little cautious.