All Australian jurisdictions have agreed, after years of research and national discussions, to raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility for children from 10, but have failed to act together on an agreement reached in 2020. The ACT has decided the issue is so important that it will go it alone by the end of 2021, showing a lead to the other states and the NT, and will raise the age from 10 to 14.
While civil society is grating the government licence to use extraordinary powers during a medical emergency, that is no excuse to abuse people’s trust by bringing in draconian measures like over-the-top surveillance and elimination of the flimsy privacy rights we still retain, CLA says.
A new rights-eroding law would increase the reach of police and spooks into our lives at the expense of our withering rights, says author Paul Gregoire writing for Sydney Criminal Lawyers. The Frankenstein legislation would enable five-ways open slather access to all phone calls, emails, data and even metadata.
Children’s brains have not formed until well into their teenage years, so they are not mature enough to acquire the intent for full criminal responsibility under the age 16, CLA argues in its submission to the national working group preparing advice for all Attorneys-General on the age of criminal responsibility. CLA also believes that no child under 16 should be detained in a jail-like setting, and mandatory sentencing should be abandoned by all jurisdictions for children under 16.
The governments’ proposed Religious Freedom laws would legitimise discrimination in the name of religion, undermine states’ rights, discriminate against non-believers, and generally make employment provisions in the health and education sector a minefield for anyone other than highly-qualified lawyers. As well, the laws would further entrench tax breaks for organisations that don’t provide the services to earn them. The government can do much better: a fundamental redrafting of the proposals is needed, CLA says.
In a proposed new law before parliament, the government wants the right to conduct broad-spectrum surveillance, and hold photos on every Australian, without necessary safeguards. It claims the technology doesn’t exist for mass surveillance in real time, but The Guardian report’s CLA President Dr Kristine Klugman when she points out that a minor development could introduce the option of ‘1984’ and ‘Big Brother’ high-tech to Australia in just a few months, which police and security authorities would find ‘cheap and enticing’…and irresistible.
With marijuana – cannabis – soon to be legal in the ACT, we look forward to photos of Prime Minister Scott Morrison lighting up a rollie at The Lodge, and of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton tending his four pot plants at his Canberra address.