While Labor Senators agree with the report's commentary in relation to
increased penalty provisions, we have serious concerns about the introduction
of mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of firearm trafficking
The Australian Labor Party maintains its position that the introduction
of mandatory minimum sentences for firearms trafficking offences should be
avoided. We note that these provisions have now been considered three times and
rejected by Parliament, including by this Parliament in relation to the Crimes
Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015. The
government has, for a fourth time, failed to justify the need for such
Noting evidence provided to this committee during the last inquiry into
this bill, Labor Senators believe that effective deterrence is achieved by
increasing penalties applicable to the most serious firearms offenders, rather
than by imposing prison terms on the least serious offenders. Labor Senators
have previously made this point in relation to the Crimes Legislation
Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015. At that time,
Labor recommended that mandatory minimum sentences for firearms trafficking
offences be replaced with increased penalty provisions.
Increasing maximum penalties for firearms trafficking reflects community
concern about the consequences of serious firearms offences, and mirrors the
regime of penalties proposed by Labor when it was in Government. It would send
a strong message to serious criminals about the consequences of firearms
The explanatory memorandum offers no evidence to support the idea that
mandatory minimum sentences for firearms trafficking will enhance or sustain
Australia's firearms control regime by deterring potential offenders. Labor
Senators note that there is evidence suggesting that imposing mandatory minimum
penalties in fact has the opposite effect.
Furthermore, the introduction of mandatory minimum penalties would
impinge on the judicial discretion to impose appropriate sentences with regard
to the unique circumstances of each case, and would not effectively deter
Considering the increased burden on the justice system from the
introduction of mandatory minimum sentences, the Law Council of Australia (LCA)
has previously warned of:
[P]otentially increasing the likelihood of recidivism because
prisoners are inappropriately placed in a learning environment for crime. This
reinforces criminal identity and fails to address the underlying causes of crime.
This has particular relevance to young and first time offenders.
State prosecutors and the LCA have previously raised concerns with this
committee that introducing mandatory minimum sentences for firearms offences
could 'lead to unjust results'.
The LCA specified that these results will be 'particularly for vulnerable
groups within society: indigenous peoples, young adults, juveniles, persons
with a mental illness or cognitive impairment and the impoverished'.
Labor Senators do not consider that non-legislative changes can adequately
mitigate the potential impact of the bill on vulnerable groups, or the risk of
a miscarriage of justice.
Accordingly, in restating Labor's commitment to stronger penalties for
firearms trafficking offences, Labor Senators would support the passage of the
Bill without the harmful and unnecessary inclusion of mandatory minimum
Labor Senators recommend that the bill be amended to remove the
provisions for mandatory minimum penalties.
Labor Senators recommend that, subject to recommendation 1.10, the bill
Senator Louise Pratt
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