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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1897


Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Minister for Trade)(10.46) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Transfer of Prisoners Bill has evolved as a result of agreement by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to introduce a legislative scheme to permit the transfer of prisoners between the various Australian jurisdictions for welfare purposes or trial. State and Northern Territory legislation will deal with the transfer of prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment for offences against State or Northern Territory laws. The Transfer of Prisoners Bill will deal with the transfer of prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment for offences against Commonwealth laws and prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment for offences against the laws of the Australian Capital Territory, Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

As I have indicated, prisoners may be transferred for the purposes of welfare or trial. The transfer of prisoners for welfare purposes will assist the rehabilitation of prisoners and minimise the hardships caused to the families of prisoners. Procedures for this type of transfer are to be initiated by written application of the prisoner to the Commonwealth Attorney-General. The Attorney- General may make an order for the transfer of a 'Commonwealth' prisoner from one State or Territory to another if the appropriate Minister in the receiving jurisdiction consents and the Attorney-General considers that the transfer would be in the interests of the administration of justice and the welfare of the prisoner. It should be noted that these two considerations are not exclusive and that the Attorney-General may accordingly consider any other relevant matter in exercising his discretion.

The transfer of prisoners for the purposes of trial will remedy a deficiency in Australian law which prevents a prisoner being moved from one jurisdiction to another to stand trial until he has served his prison term in the first jurisdiction. If the prison term in the first jurisdiction is a lengthy one there are obvious difficulties for the prosecution. Such transfers will accordingly benefit the administration of justice within Australia. It will also be of benefit to prisoners who are anxious to have all outstanding charges in different jurisdictions dealt with rather than serve a sentence in one jurisdiction and thereafter be extradited to another jurisdiction.

Procedures for this type of transfer depend on whether the charge in respect of which the prisoner is to be transferred is a Federal or Territory charge or a State charge. Where the charge is a Federal or Territory charge the Commonwealth Attorney-General may, either of his own motion or at the request of the prisoner , apply to a court of summary jurisdiction in the jurisdiction in which the prisoner is imprisoned for an order transferring the prisoner to the other State or Territory. That application shall not be made unless the appropriate Minister in the receiving jurisdiction consents. Where the charge is a State charge, the application is made by the appropriate State Minister, either of his own motion or at the request of the prisoner and the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth must consent. The court of summary jurisdiction is obliged to make an order of transfer unless it considers that the charge is trivial, the application has not been made in the interests of justice, the transfer would prejudice the conduct of proceedings to which the prisoner is a party or it would be unjust to grant the application. The decision of a court of summary jurisdiction is reviewable by the Supreme Court.

The Bill must of necessity deal with various technical matters relating to the status of prisoners who are transferred, the effect of the transfer on the sentence of imprisonment and the procedures for returning prisoners, transferred for trial to the original jurisdiction. To simplify release procedures Territory prisoners who are transferred become prisoners of the jurisdiction to which they are transferred. Thus, an Australian Capital Territory prisoner who is transferred to Queensland will become a Queensland prisoner. This change of status is not necessary in respect of Federal prisoners who will continue to be housed in State gaols throughout Australia as Federal prisoners. To change their status if they were transferred would only complicate release procedures as such prisoners are released pursuant to Commonwealth law.

As far as the sentence of imprisonment is concerned, the broad effect is that once a prisoner is transferred the sentence imposed in the first jurisdiction is deemed for all purposes, including the exercise of the royal prerogative, remissions and release on parole, to have been imposed in the jurisdiction to which he has been transferred. Remissions earnt and non-parole periods fixed in the original jurisdiction are applied in the receiving jurisdiction. Where a prisoner is transferred from jurisdiction 'A' to jurisdiction 'B' for trial there is provision for his transfer back to jurisdiction 'A' if he does not receive any sentence in jurisdiction 'B' or a sentence shorter than the unserved balance of the sentence applicable in jurisdiction 'A'.

The costs which will have to be borne by the Commonwealth as a result of enactment of this legislation are not substantial. The Commonwealth will have to bear the travelling costs of Federal and Territory offenders transferred for welfare purposes and all offenders who are transferred to answer Commonwealth or Territory charges. Existing arrangements provide for the Commonwealth to bear the cost of housing Territory prisoners and the States to bear the cost of housing Federal prisoners. The Commonwealth will not incur any additional costs with respect to the housing of prisoners because of this legislation. It is estimated that about 10 to 15 Federal and Territory prisoners will be transferred per annum with the likelihood of more prisoners seeking transfer this financial year than in subsequent years. The travelling costs of transferring prisoners under escort should average out at approximately $1,000 per prisoner transferred.

The introduction of this Bill represents the Commonwealth's contribution to a legislative scheme which will greatly benefit the system of administration of justice within Australia, assist the rehabilitation of prisoners and reduce the hardships suffered by the members of prisoners' families. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Spender) adjourned.