This morning Chapman introduced a bill to tighten the parole laws, despite yesterday saying that Labor leader Peter Malinauskas was engaged in a political stunt with his plan to introduce his own private members’ bill today.
Malinauskas announced the plan late on Sunday – a move which apparently forced the Government to move more speedily on its own legislation than it had planned.
Chapman said yesterday that she favoured waiting until the Supreme Court handed down its verdict in an appeal against a previous decision to release convicted pedophile Colin Humphrys on strict conditions.
“In the absence of actually having the (appeal) determination and making sure that what we do do is effective, then that’s really just a publicity stunt,” she said about Malinauskas’s bill, also insisting that it’s “a matter which we want to get right rather than just shove it through Parliament in five minutes”.
However, the Government’s position has quickly changed, with Chapman getting Cabinet approval for her own bill yesterday and introducing it this morning despite indicating she would wait for the appeal judgement before doing so.
The bill seeks to address the central concern about the Humphrys’ case, who was ordered to be released despite a recommendation from the Parole Board that he be kept behind bars after warnings from psychiatrists there was a risk he would re-offend.
The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed Humphrys’ release last week, with the Supreme Court yet to hand down a decision.
Today’s bill amends the relevant sentencing legislation to ensure that a prisoner cannot be released unless they can satisfy the Supreme Court that a person is “both capable of controlling and willing to control the person’s sexual instincts”, or is no longer a risk to the safety of the community due to a person’s “advanced age or infirmity”.
Malinauskas said he would work cooperatively with the government on the bill, but reserved the right to amend it.
“In less than 24 hours, Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has gone from labelling Labor’s legislation ‘a publicity stunt’to having legislation of her own,” he said.
Chapman offered the Opposition 24 hours to consider the bill, but Malinauskas declined, instead opting for debate to proceed immediately.
She said the bill had been in the works for some time, involving input from the best legal minds in the Attorney-General’s Department.
Introducing the bill today, Chapman said the Government needed to be prepared for the consequences of an unsuccessful appeal against Humphrys’ release, in contrast to yesterday’s insistence that the Government had time to deal with the matter before any potential release.
She accused Malinauskas of playing political games.
“Labor is clearly still coming to terms with its election loss and the relevance-deprived former ministers are looking for media exposure whenever they can,” she told Parliament.
“The conduct of the Opposition Leader has been unconscionable. I can inform the house that on 27 March he wrote to me about the Humphrys matter and I replied by letter the next day. I advised him that I would be happy to work with him…”
She said she also provided a briefing to Shadow Attorney-General Kyam Maher.
“We heard nothing. The government heard nothing from these failed former labor ministers about this matter until we saw the story in yesterday’s Advertiser.”
The legislation passed the Lower House on Tuesday.
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