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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 706


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (18:04): Unfortunately, notwithstanding the attempt to characterise the Labor Party 's position as a strong one, this is a weaker position than the government's. Senator Wong has indicated that she opposes mandatory minimum sentences and seeks to offer an alternative, and that is the creation of a circumstance of aggravation with a higher maximum sentence. There is no question whatsoever that prescribing mandatory minimum sentences is a much clearer indication of the parliament's view of the seriousness of an offence than creating a new, aggravated offence, particularly in view of the fact that courts, in sentencing, already take into account circumstances of aggravation when determining where within the sentencing range a particular penalty of imprisonment should be imposed. So Labor's attempt to portray themselves as taking a tough position will convince no-one. What Senator Wong is in fact doing is seeking to weaken the position by opposing the one effective measure, the one effective signal, that this parliament can send, and that is a mandatory minimum sentence so that no gun-trafficking offender will escape a term of imprisonment. That is a strong message. Anything less than that is a weaker message.

I appreciate that the Labor Party support the principles of this legislation. I accept that they take a serious view of the nature of the crime, that overall they are supportive, and that they will get their amendment passed given the state of the numbers in the Senate on this issue. But I regret to say that what the Senate, if it passes Senator Wong's amendment, will have done will have been to settle for a weaker message than the government would wish to see.