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Question: Age of Criminal Responsibility Discussion Paper

20 March 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:15): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Attorney-General on the topic of raising the age of criminal responsibility.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The government recently announced a discussion paper regarding increasing the age of criminal responsibility. Can the minister provide an update to the parliament on the community engagement in relation to that discussion paper and when can we expect to see this matter progress in the parliament?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:16): I thank the honourable member for his question and do note that he has had a very significant interest over a very long period of time in relation to the minimum age of criminal responsibility. To his direct question about how it is progressing, I think it is 25 March that the consultation closes, after having released the discussion paper earlier this year. The discussion paper proposes options that may be available.

As the discussion paper makes clear, this government has made no decision on what it may or may not do in relation to the issue of raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Once the discussion paper closes there will be, as there has already been, significant work to do to have a look at the comments that have been provided. It is a complicated area of policy and a complicated area of law—one that the honourable member has asked numerous questions about during this term of parliament.

I have indicated that a significant body of work has been undertaken, and that is reflected in the discussion paper and complexity of the issue as outlined in the discussion paper. Once the consultation closes, I can't give a definitive time frame, but it will be a substantial period of time to have a look at the issues that have been put forward.

Certainly, jurisdictions around Australia are now moving, as they are internationally, to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility. We have seen that already occur and be implemented in the Northern Territory, where the age has been raised to 12, with a commitment to progressively raise it to 14. Victoria made an announcement not long after its state election last year that it would be raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility. I am not sure where the legislation is but I think the first jurisdiction in Australia to announce that it would do that was the ACT some time ago.

As I have outlined before, it is an area that has been of significant interest to all jurisdictions, with all attorneys-general from around Australia committing to doing work on what models might look like and what the issues around raising the minimum age would be. This work started with my predecessor, the former member for Bragg and former Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, looking at the issues that might need to be addressed. So it is work that has traversed a couple of governments already in South Australia and will continue.