Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 2 May 1989
Page: 1564

Senator JONES —My question is directed to the Minister for Justice. I refer him to his announcement today of a new sentencing regime for Federal prisoners throughout Australia. Will the Minister explain to the Senate what this will mean for persons sentenced to prison for Federal offences?

Senator TATE —I will answer this as shortly as possible but I believe of great interest to honourable senators is the way in which Federal prisoners are dealt with by the courts. The fact is, as honourable senators know, that there are no Federal gaols. That means that we take advantage of the State courts to sentence Federal offenders, such as those who import drugs or commit fraud against the Commonwealth, and they are incarcerated in State gaols or other institutions. What has happened up to this point is that, when a judge pronounces a sentence of 10 years' maximum, six years' minimum, for importing heroin, quite often the Federal offender is released after serving, say, three years and a few months. It is an intolerable situation where the sentence pronounced by the judge is not actually implemented, is not actually the sentence served by the Federal offender. State remissions ought not eat away at the sentence imposed by the courts. After all, the judge, after hearing all the evidence, is in the best position to determine for what period that person should be imprisoned, deprived of his or her liberty.

I believe strongly that the public wants sentences that are definite and certain. The present situation really amounts to a fraud against the public when the sentence pronounced is not the sentence served. For that reason it has been decided that the remissions which are available under State law should not be available for Federal prisoners, and that the minimum sentence pronounced by the judge will in fact be the gaol sentence served by that particular Federal prisoner. I believe that, in the case of persons who import drugs into Australia or who engage in fraud against the Commonwealth, and therefore prevent revenues flowing to the Commonwealth to be used on behalf of all Australian people, such persons should, if they are sentenced to a gaol term, serve that term as pronounced by the judge. That will be the effect of legislation to be introduced into the Parliament shortly.

I want to make it clear that this is not to engage in a bashing exercise whereby harsher or more draconian penalties should be imposed by courts; it is, rather, that certain and definite penalties be imposed by courts. I think there is a distinction and, together with the stripping of those who commit serious crimes of their assets, of their profits and the moneys and assets that they accumulate from their nefarious activities, one will have in place a sentence and deterrent regime which should help in the fight against organised crime.