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Pages tagged "Attorney General and Democracy"

Art Gallery of South Australia

5 June 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:37): I rise to express outrage at the campaign being waged by the Hon. Sarah Game and others to censor the content of our state Art Gallery. I must say that it is hypocritical to see this crusade to cancel artwork being led by the One Nation party, a political party that has long opposed so-called cancel culture. Indeed, the leader of One Nation, Senator Pauline Hanson, has claimed that cancel culture is killing debate and freedom of speech in this country.

The One Nation party certainly has a bizarre world view. They believe it is okay to promote transphobia and racism, and to do so with impunity. They argue that those offensive views should not be censored, but apparently exposure to provocative art is all a bit too much, that is a bridge too far. It is a complete nonsense.

The two sculptures that have been singled out by the Hon. Ms Game, Mark Quinn's Buck with Cigar, which is a sculpture of a transgender activist, Buck Angel, and Patricia Piccinini's Big Mother, I understand have been on display in the Art Gallery since 2010 and 2011. The Hon. Ms Game claims that the artworks represent sexualised imagery; however, they are not sexualised simply because they depict the body. Indeed, celebrating the body in all of its shapes and sizes has been a feature of art for generations. It is not for politicians to determine which depictions of the body are considered art and worthy of inclusion in our public access Art Gallery.

I note that the Art Gallery of South Australia rebuts Ms Game's assertions that these works are unsuitable for children. A spokesperson told the Adelaide Advertiser:

We prepare our visitors including school groups and encourage pre-visits from teachers and educators.

Art at AGSA is curated to spark conversation and debate, and sometimes may be controversial. It is the role of artists and galleries…to encourage viewers to see the world, culture, and politics from different perspectives.

One of Ms Game's concerns seems to be the proximity of one of the artworks to a painting of the baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Presumably, the Hon. Ms Game does not think it is confronting for children to be exposed to artwork depicting the crucifixion of Christ, artwork that is commonplace in many galleries around the world.

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Italy and see some amazing artwork firsthand. My favourite was the Statue of David. Seventeen feet tall, carved out of marble, it is a remarkable sight. Made back in 1504, it is considered one of the most famous artworks in the world. I do hate to offend the sensibilities of the One Nation Party, but the statue is of a naked man, shock horror. David, of course, has not been immune to controversy. There was a time when a fig leaf was used to protect his modesty.

I had thought that those days of censorship were long gone, but sadly I was mistaken. Last year, the principal of Tallahassee Classical School in Florida's state capital was forced to resign after parents complained about a lesson that included a photo of David and the work was described by some as pornographic. As the Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, observed on Twitter, 'Mistaking art for pornography is simply ridiculous.'

Thankfully, the Hon. Ms Game's approach has not infiltrated Roman Florence, where there are still vast numbers of naked statues in public places. Perhaps the Hon. Ms Game believes these statues should be covered up or that children should be blindfolded or told to avert their eyes as they walk through these classical cities, or is art just considered adult only when it depicts a transgender body?

It is a real shame to see this kind of divisive politics being imported into Australia. This is the latest terrain in the culture wars of the far right. Recently in New South Wales, there was a ban imposed by Cumberland City Council on books talking about same-sex parenting on the basis that this is somehow disturbing for children. Thankfully, that insanity was overturned, but I do fear what we are seeing here is a move towards censoring our public spaces, such as our libraries and our galleries. Dictating what people can read and the artwork they can consume is very dangerous in our democracy.

There is a push here by the far right to frame diversity, whether that diversity be reflected through art or literature, as being dangerous and threatening, even corrupting for children. I know the government are fond of dealing with One Nation, but I urge them to resist this temptation. They must not follow the far right down this rabbit hole. South Australia has a long tradition of being freethinking, let's keep it that way. As Alanis Morissette once said, 'censorship is about fear. It's just fear being projected onto art.' But the last word must go to Virginia Woolf, who wrote, 'Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.'

Time expired.


Summary Offences (Reversal of Section 58 Amendments) Amendment Bill

16 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:23): I am reminded of the quote by Cicero: 'To err is human but to persist in error is devilish.' It is very disappointing to see that the two major parties in this place have not changed their ways. They have not reflected on the public backlash, the outrage that we saw in not only the public gallery—the community that came and watched the debate in this chamber—but also what we saw on the steps of Parliament House, because people were rightly outraged at what they saw. It is an affront to our democracy.

It is really disappointing to see this affront to our democracy being led by a Labor government, a party that was actually founded on protest: the strikes of workers and the action of workers to demand fair pay. It is a real affront to those fundamental principles that underpin the Labor Party that they take their marching orders on this issue not from the union movement but from David Speirs and the Liberals.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The Hon. David Speirs and the Liberals, who just listened to shock jocks and crafted a highly reactionary policy on the run. What the government should have done is actually subject that to some level of scrutiny and take a cold shower, but instead they rushed it through the parliament in the other place at record speed—20 minutes, less time than it takes to do a load of washing. It was outrageous, absolutely outrageous, and a slap in the face for all South Australians who care about our democracy.

Luckily, in this chamber it was subject to scrutiny. I want to acknowledge the leadership of my colleagues, the Hon. Tammy Franks and also the Hon. Connie Bonaros and the Hon. Frank Pangallo, who fought really hard alongside the Greens to try to resist this affront to our democracy. They have stayed true to the principles that they advocated for on that night and are standing with us in supporting this repeal bill tonight. I do not propose to revisit the lengthy speech that I gave 12 months ago—nearly 12 months to the day—you will be relieved to know, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, the Hon. Mr Simms, because you are supposed to be concluding the debate.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I traversed in that speech the origins of our democracy, going back to Ancient Greece. What I will do, though, is make some brief remarks about some of the changes we have seen since we last discussed this matter. Since this bill was passed, a declaration of our right to protest has been signed by 60 organisations. I will read a few elements from that in the hope that it might convince some of my colleagues to change their position on this bill.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms, this is the conclusion of the debate. This is not a second reading speech, is it?

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: No, but it is relevant in terms of some of the comments that have been made—

The PRESIDENT: Okay.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: —and I think for people to understand the changes that have happened. Sixty organisations have signed on to a declaration that begins with:

The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental human right that allows us to express our views, shape our societies and press for social and legal change.

It states:

All Australian governments have an obligation to guarantee the right to protest and to protect protesters. However, state governments around the country have passed harsh, repressive and undemocratic anti-protest laws.

This declaration, grounded in human rights law, asserts the fundamental right to protest and offers practical steps to safeguard the right from further erosion.

This has been signed by a range of organisations: Amnesty International, Australian Democracy Network, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Australian Services Union, Human Rights Law Centre, Rights Resource Network of South Australia and SACOSS. These are leaders in their field and they have come out in advocating for the right to protest to be protected in our democracy.

I also note, in responding to the comments of the Hon. Emily Bourke, that in many jurisdictions we have seen similar laws to the ones we passed here in South Australia have a chilling effect and produce some really adverse outcomes. Indeed, in New South Wales, in 2022 when they saw legislation passed, there was a maximum penalty of $22,000, which was condemned by the Council for Civil Liberties.

At that time, we saw Violet Coco sentenced to two years in prison for blocking a lane of traffic. Danny Lim was peacefully protesting with a sign when he was assaulted by New South Wales police when they slammed him to the ground face first; he ended up in hospital. Cherish Kuehlmann was arrested at her home in the middle of the night, 12 hours after she engaged in lawful assembly. Members of the community who camped on private property in Colo in New South Wales were arrested and accused of planning protests.

In Tasmania we have seen their laws subject to a High Court challenge, and in Queensland they have recently passed legislation that deals with 'locking on'. Indeed, members might reflect that that was the practice that Muriel Matters engaged in when she chained herself to the grate in the women's gallery in Westminster. Yet this is precisely the kind of action that members in this place have sought to quell.

Might I say it is a really sad thing in our democracy when we have the people who are belling the cat on the climate emergency and speaking out against the climate crisis being subject to fines and the threat of jail, while we have the fossil fuel industry getting huge subsidies in the federal budget over in Canberra and getting huge handouts from the state government here in South Australia—slaps on the back rather than being held to account for the impact they have on driving the climate crisis.

It is disgraceful. I urge members of this place to revisit their position, to think again, to turn away from their phones, turn their minds away from their devices, and instead turn their minds to the people they represent and ask themselves what they think, what people in the union movement think, what people in the civil rights organisations think, about this attack on our democracy. With that, I conclude my remarks and I will be bringing this matter to a vote so that all members of the community can see the views of their elected members.

The council divided on the second reading:

Ayes 4

Noes 16

Majority 12

AYES

Bonaros, C. Franks, T.A. Pangallo, F.
Simms, R.A. (teller)    

 

NOES

Bourke, E.S. (teller) Centofanti, N.J. El Dannawi, M.
Game, S.L. Girolamo, H.M. Hanson, J.E.
Henderson, L.A. Hood, B.R. Hood, D.G.E.
Hunter, I.K. Lee, J.S. Maher, K.J.
Martin, R.B. Ngo, T.T. Scriven, C.M.
Wortley, R.P.    

 

Second reading thus negatived.


Motion: Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

16 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:33): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that the government has undertaken consultation on a discussion paper titled 'Minimum age of criminal responsibility—alternative diversion model' released in January 2024.

2. Recognises that the consultation period closed on 24 March 2024.

3. Acknowledges:

(a) the continued advocacy of organisations such as Change the Record, SACOSS, the Justice Reform Initiative and the Guardian for Children and Young People in calling for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to at least 14 years without exceptions;

(b) that an alternative diversion model is vital to the success of raising the age of criminal responsibility; and

(c) that the public are entitled to understand the views around the proposed alternative diversion model.

4. Calls on the Malinauskas government to publicly release the submissions to the consultation on alternative diversion models for raising the age of criminal responsibility.

This motion calls for the publication of the submissions that have been made to the government's discussion paper looking at the minimum age of criminal responsibility—alternative diversion model. This government has a bit of a track record, unfortunately, of adopting a clandestine approach to some of these submissions. I am reminded of the approach they took to the rental reforms, where they put out a discussion paper, they invited public submissions, but they did not actually publish the submissions from the public.

It was the Greens who drew attention to that and said, 'Hang on, if the public is putting in a submission then they have a right to actually know that it has been received and to see it published on a public website.' But also, as members of parliament, we have a right to access that information so that it can inform our own deliberations when we are dealing with bills.

In that instance, the government did change course and they decided to make that information available, redacting information if it was of a personal nature, or if, indeed, the person making the submission requested that it be kept in confidence. That is what we are asking the government to do in this instance. I am not suggesting that they compromise people's privacy but, if individuals have no objection to their submission being made public, then it should be made public, published on the website and made available to those who have an interest.

As we know, there is an ongoing debate about the need to raise the age of criminal responsibility around our country. The current age is just 10 years old, which is far too young. The Greens have been calling to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 14, alongside key advocates such as SACOSS, the Guardian for Children and Young People, Change the Record and the Justice Reform Initiative. I really want to acknowledge the leadership of those groups in pushing for action on this issue.

In January, the government released a discussion paper exploring an alternative diversion model. This model would involve diverting young offenders across a certain age away from the traditional criminal justice system into rehabilitative and supportive programs. The consultation period closed on 24 March and, as of now, it is still unclear what the next steps will be. People want to know that their submissions are not just disappearing into the ether and that they have been received, and that members of parliament, as legislators, will have an opportunity to hear their views.

To be able to stop jailing children, we need to look at what we can do instead. We know that the brains of young people are still developing. Research shows that 14 years of age is the age at which the adolescent brain is at a more cognitive stage and an age when young people are more able to understand the consequences of their actions. We know that early exposure to the criminal justice system causes harm to young people and that impact on wellbeing can continue well into adulthood. We also know that over 50 per cent of incarcerated children are from Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander backgrounds, further adding to the disadvantage that they already face in their communities.

The Australian National University has provided alternative options for restorative and therapeutic care to support the reform. Whatever alternative model is created will underpin the success of raising the age of criminal responsibility. It is crucial that the submissions to this discussion paper be made publicly available. SACOSS's submission outlined some of their concerns with the government's proposed model. They provide some key principles to inform alternative frameworks and request that it be non-punitive, trauma-informed, therapeutic, culturally led, and non-discriminatory. Their key concerns with the model proposed relate to, and I quote from the submission:

The potential for this to provide further avenues to criminalise and brutalise children, including children from the minimum age of criminal responsibility by means of expanding policing powers, introducing a form of administrative detention and removing the legal protections afforded to children and young people.

If there are serious concerns that emerge in these submissions, then they need to be publicly considered. The public also have a right to understand if there are, indeed, any benefits in the proposed model. Publicity around releasing the submissions will promote transparency around this issue and would, of course, allow the public to have access to a range of views and opinions and, indeed, give them confidence in whatever outcome the government embarks upon.

It is important for researchers, advocates and members of the community to also review the full range of information. I submit to you, Mr Acting President, that that is something that would lead to better, more evidence-based policies that would serve the interests of young people. It is really important that we have the welfare of these young people in our minds as we make laws in this regard. With that, I conclude my remarks.


MOI: LGBTIQ+ Discrimination

15 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:30): In a liberal democracy such as ours, our laws should protect all of us equally. Most South Australians would recognise and support that principle. Yet LGBTI people are discriminated against by some religious educational institutions and faith-based service providers across the country every day. These organisations do so because our laws allow it.

A groundbreaking report by Equality Australia, entitled 'Dismissed, Denied and Demeaned: a national report on LGBTQ+ discrimination in faith-based schools and organisations', has found that LGBTI discrimination is endemic in religious schools and organisations across our country. According to Equality Australia, Australian LGBTI students are more likely to attend an independent school that discriminates against them than one that supports them. Indeed, one in three students and almost two in five staff are enrolled or employed in private schools, most of which are religiously affiliated.

More than 70,000 students and 10,000 staff in non-government schools are estimated to be LGBTI, according to the report, which includes 26 personal accounts of discrimination in these environments. Included in these accounts are stories about students who have been forced out of school or teachers who have been fired from their jobs or denied promotions simply for being who they are. In other cases, children have been told that they could go to hell.

The report also found that Catholic school authorities maintain a damaging and oppressive culture of silence, with nine out of 10 of those reviewed—educating 70 per cent of all students in Australian Catholic schools—publishing so little information about LGBTI inclusion that prospective parents, students or employees cannot tell whether they will be welcomed or whether they will face discrimination. This is also the case for one in three independent schools.

This points to a systemic suppression of LGBTI identities and lives. For young people coming of age and exploring who they are, the silence about LGBTI people is deafening. Silence says to these young people that they must remain hidden and ashamed of who they are if they want to keep their jobs or if they want to remain in school.

The report also found that almost one in 10 of Australia's largest faith-based service providers publicly discriminate against LGBTI people, while almost four in 10 are silent on their positions on LGBTI inclusion. Four in 10 people work for an organisation that has an unclear position or discriminates against LGBTI people.

The door should always be open—open to LGBTI people who need health care, housing or disability support no matter who is delivering that service. Sitting on the fence is no longer good enough. Services must be inclusive and say so to ensure equal access for everybody who needs support.

When introducing the report, the Hon. Michael Kirby AC, former justice of the High Court of Australia, described the broad-based religious exemptions and anti-discrimination laws as neither principled nor just. Justice Kirby states:

There is increasing understanding, and broad acceptance in Australia, that the past overly broad religious exemptions go beyond what is essential and sometimes diminish the enjoyment of the dignity and rights of others.

It is important to note that these organisations rely on billions and billions of dollars of public funding, but they are not required to comply with the same laws as other organisations when it comes to employment, education and service delivery. It really is appalling that these organisations getting government funds are getting a 'get out of jail' card.

Successive federal governments have failed to address these gaps in the law, which directly impact on so many people in our community. Indeed, the law in Australia and at the commonwealth level—and in all states and territories—is out of step with 21st century community expectations. It needs to change. Everyone deserves the same protection from discrimination, and if you get public money like these schools do, like these organisations do, they do not have a right to deny service to people who need help. They do not have a right to threaten the employment of their staff in our 21st century Australia. It is appalling.

There was a push at a national level to reform this, but it seems to have stalled over in Canberra and the Albanese government has not taken the action needed. The Greens are calling for the Malinauskas Labor government to step up and change the law at a state level. Friday is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. What a powerful thing it would be if this state Labor government stepped up and said we are finally going to fix this problem with our law to ensure that all South Australians, irrespective of their sexuality or gender identity, are equal before the law and get the same protection under the laws of our state.


Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General's Portfolio) Bill

14 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:41): It will be no surprise to members of this place that the Greens are supportive of this bill. I must confess I am a republican. I know that will shock some members; I can see the looks of distress on their faces. The secret Green agenda for Australia to become a republic is on display here today.

I am a republican, but might I say this is actually also about modernising our legal profession. These are terms that have been used since the 1500s. Surely, 700 years later, rather than creating terms that hark back to a time when the responsibility of legal counsel was to serve the monarch, we should actually move towards titles that represent the role of these professionals to serve their clients. I really do not think the people who are seeking justice in our state care whether or not these people are referred to as KC or SC; they want to ensure they are getting the best support possible. But I think it does send the wrong message when we have these anachronistic titles from a bygone era.

I do think it is interesting, though, hearing some of the remarks from the Liberals in this chamber. They talk about this not being a priority, yet I note, looking at the Notice Paper, that there are more Liberal speakers on this matter than there are on any of the other important issues that the parliament is dealing with today. Indeed, there are more speakers on this matter than there are on the bill that we dealt with earlier relating to recruiting children to crime. There are more Liberal speakers on this bill than there are on the bail bill that we dealt with earlier.

When we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, what does the opposition spend their time on? When we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, the opposition chooses to spend their time in this place on this matter and give it significant focus—I should acknowledge mouse traps as well. But really, this is not the number one issue for the people in the broader community, despite the fact that the Liberals have given it such prominence. It is anachronistic, and it is time to change.

It is our understanding that the current process requires the minister to approve the nomination of a Senior Counsel to King's Counsel before it is sent to the Governor. Indeed, this was the model that was implemented when QCs and KCs were reinstated after 2019, after being abolished for 10 years. I note the submission of the Law Society and I respect the views of many people in our legal profession but they are wrong on this.

The Liberals have talked a lot about the need to protect our heritage. If they are serious about that, I urge them to in the future support the Greens' calls to protect our iconic heritage buildings rather than folding like a cheap suit when the Property Council comes out swinging, as we saw in this chamber just a few weeks ago. That would be the kind of meaningful support for our heritage buildings that the people of South Australia are looking for, not the sort of nonsense that the Liberals are latching onto in their quest for relevance.

There is one other thing I will say before concluding. I urge members—there was a point made about the separation of powers and I think it is important to note that the Chief Justice is removed from politics, and I think it is important that members of parliament and the broader profession respect that delineation. I think it is appropriate, of course, to criticise government policy, to engage in that debate, but I think we also need to respect the distinct role that the Chief Justice plays in our system. It is very important for the confidence of the broader community that that role be outside of politics, in my opinion. With that, I conclude my remarks.


Criminal Law Consolidation (Recruiting Children to Commit Crime) Amendment Bill

14 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:48): I rise to speak briefly on this bill and to indicate that the Greens will also support it. The Greens have been advocating for many years, as members of this place will know, to raise the age of criminal responsibility. All of the research demonstrates that people under the age of 14 are far too young to understand the implications of the judicial system and our incarceration system.

In 2022, in this place, in introducing the Greens' bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, I outlined the ever-increasing body of evidence that supports this. The recent report from the Guardian of Children and Young People, entitled From Those Who Know, presents actual accounts and the views and opinions of young people who are living in the Youth Training Centre. I do reiterate the comments made by my colleague the Hon. Connie Bonaros: she is right in her assessment about the Youth Training Centre. This is not an appropriate place for young people to be held.

What we know is that when we lock young people up in these sorts of conditions, what we do is set them on a path of criminality that can continue throughout their lives. We lock them in to ongoing interactions with the criminal justice system, and that is just not right. It is precisely the opposite of what we should be seeking to do as legislators and as people who make policy in this state. I want to quote a few comments from that report. Some of the testimonies that are included are really harrowing. One young person stated:

I think that kids as young as 10 might not know what they're doing, but they could be influenced by other people that might pervert the way that they see everything.

I think that young person has made an important point, and one that is addressed by this bill—that is, the potential for young people to be used as surrogates, in effect, to commit crimes, and that is a practice that we need to shut down.

It is shameful that adults could seek to influence young people to commit criminal acts, and this bill really closes that loophole. It aims to address the issue by imposing a penalty on adults who recruit children for criminal behaviour. It is our understanding that current aiding and abetting laws that exist mean that an adult who has influenced a child to commit a crime can only be charged with that offence if there is, in fact, a crime that has been committed by the child. In effect, that means that if the child is below the age of criminal responsibility then they are not actually committing a crime and, therefore, it is difficult for the adult to be appropriately charged and convicted.

It is our hope, of course, that this government will raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, in line with calls from the United Nations, the South Australian Council of Social Service, the Law Society, the Law Council, the Australian Medical Association, Change the Record and more, and we need to ensure that, if we do that, we do close this loophole as well. The Greens support this bill. It is our hope that it is the first in what we hope will be a suite of measures that come to us in preparation for raising the age of criminal responsibility.

I do want to commend the Attorney-General in that, having engaged with him over the years on this issue, I know he is someone who is passionate and genuine in his desire to address this. I urge the government to make this a priority and to ensure that they do everything they can to get children out of these inappropriate environments, to ensure that they can realise their full potential in life.


Summary Offences (Prostitution Law Reform) Amendment Bill

1 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (22:25): I also rise to indicate that I will not be supporting this bill. I think this is the first time I have had an opportunity to talk on the issue of sex work during my nearly three years in this parliament, and so I wanted to take this opportunity to make my support for the decriminalisation of sex work in our state clear, and to put that on the public record.

I am concerned that in criminalising the clients of sex work, as this bill attempts to do, there will be negative consequences that will flow on to these workers. We know that laws that criminalise the clients of sex workers have the potential to result in an increase in violence, in sexually transmitted infections, and exploitation within the sex industry.

Criminalising the clients also keeps the entire sex work industry underground and jeopardises the harm reduction strategies that sex workers can use to keep themselves safe, and leaves them vulnerable to predators and to criminals. I do agree with the comments made by the Hon. Michelle Lensink that sunlight, and indeed regulation, is the best disinfectant in that regard.

Sex workers in countries where sex work laws like the ones being debated here have been implemented are frequently threatened and harassed by law enforcement and, indeed, I understand that criminalising clients has resulted in police raids on brothels in those countries, which are psychologically and physically harmful to those workers. These encounters often result in sex workers experiencing isolation and stigma due to being outed in their community.

Sex work is work, and no-one should assume that sex workers do not have choice or autonomy. I am concerned that the patriarchal view of sex work that has been presented in this place by some in this chamber is a dangerous threat to the bodily autonomy and freedom of choice of women, and also other marginalised groups. I recognise the efforts of SIN and other advocacy groups here in our state in terms of advocating for the rights of sex workers.

I also just want to point out that we should not also assume that the clients of these sex workers are seeking to exploit people either and, indeed, I know from representations that have been made in the past from people in the disability sector, for instance, that access to sex work can be a very important aspect of the lives of some people dealing with disability, and there are a range of other scenarios where people may wish to access that service.

I do want to just reference some research in this regard looking at the Nordic model that was published by May-Len Skilbrei and Charlotta Holmstrom of the University of Oslo. It was in 2013, but an extract was published in The Conversation, under the title 'The "Nordic model" of prostitution law is a myth'. The article references prostitution law. That is not a term I use, but that is the term used in the article. I will quote an extract for you. It talks about the concerns around the way that this law might apply to particularly marginalised groups. It says:

…prostitution laws targeting buyers have complex effects on people far beyond those they are meant to target. In addition to this complicating factor, the Nordic countries also police prostitution using various other laws and by-laws. Some of these regulations do, in fact, assume that the women who sell sex are to be punished and blamed for prostitution. This goes to show that one should be careful in concluding that Nordic prostitution policies are guided by progressive feminist ideals, or that they necessarily seek to protect women involved in prostitution. The most telling example of this is the way Nordic countries treat migrants who sell sex.

In Sweden this is embodied by the Aliens Act, which forbids foreign women from selling sex in Sweden and is used by the police to apprehend non-Swedish or migrant persons suspected of selling sex. This reveals the limits of the rhetoric of female victimisation, with clients framed as perpetrators: if the seller is foreign, she is to blame, and can be punished with deportation.

It goes on to talk about the experience in Norway, where, the article says:

…we see similar gaps between stated ideology, written policies, and practice. Even though it is completely legal to sell sex, women involved in prostitution are victims of increased police, neighbour and border controls which stigmatise them and make them more vulnerable. The increased control the Norwegian police exert on prostitution markets so as to identify clients includes document checks on women involved in prostitution so as to find irregulars among them. Raids performed in the name of rescue often end with vulnerable women who lack residence permits being deported from Norway.

The research concludes that:

Taken together, the Nordic countries' ways of approaching prostitution have been presented nationally and understood internationally as expressions of a shared understanding of prostitution as a gender equality problem, an example of how women's rights can be enshrined in anti-prostitution law. But after looking closely at how the laws have been proposed and implemented, we beg to differ.

So I do question some of the claims that have been made in support of this bill.

Decriminalisation is the preferred legal framework for the majority of sex workers, and indeed sex work lobbyists. It is supported by a range of human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, as the best method to protect the rights of these workers, reduce violence, increase their ability to access the justice system and ensure that they have appropriate access to health services.

I want to recognise the work of my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks in this place, who has long championed the decriminalisation model. Indeed, this is consistent with the policy of the Greens and it is a policy that I am proud to support. We believe that decriminalisation decreases the incidence of violence against sex workers, decreases the incidence of sex trafficking, reduces the stigma of workers and their clients, and increases community health and safety. With that, I conclude my remarks and reiterate that I will not be supporting the bill.


Question: Raising the age of criminal responsibility

30 April 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:44): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of raising the age of criminal responsibility.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Guardian for Children and Young People, Shona Reid, released two submissions to the government's discussion paper on alternative diversion models for raising the age of criminal responsibility in South Australia. The first submission, titled 'From Those Who Know', is on behalf of young people who have been detained or denied their liberty at the Adelaide Youth Training Centre, compiled in her role as the South Australian Training Centre Visitor. The second is a more formal submission on the guardian's own behalf. The Guardian for Children and Young People's submission highlights concerns with the government's proposed alternative diversion model. In particular, these relate to the increases in police powers. I refer specifically to page 21, where the guardian states:

…I am seriously concerned that the places of safety network may not prevent arrest of children, but instead act as authority for a form of pseudo-arrest. If this occurs, it is unlikely to reduce children's admissions to police facilities, or the time spent in police cells.

The submission that the guardian has made on behalf of detained young people contains firsthand accounts of their experiences in the judicial system. Young people in particular talk about their challenges understanding the terminology used when they are arrested and finding their interactions with police difficult. One young person states:

I just remember crying. And I told [the police] everything, and then I became a snitch because I didn't know what was right, didn't know if I was meant to say it or I wasn't. Yeah. It was embarrassing. It was real scary as well. Like, imagine two police officers coming in and saying, 'Oh, yup, you're getting arrested for this,' and at that point in time I didn't actually think [I had done anything wrong in terms of my behaviour].

My question to the Attorney-General therefore is: has the Attorney-General read the submissions from the Guardian for Children and Young People and what assurances would he provide to that young person quoted in the report in relation to the government's proposed alternative diversion model?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General) (14:46): I thank the honourable member for his question. As the honourable member has correctly stated, there was a discussion paper released in relation to the topic of the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

Certainly, there are a number of other jurisdictions around Australia that have started processes in relation to this. I think the ACT, Victoria and the Northern Territory are all at various stages and I think all of them are proposing to raise the age to 12, certainly at least initially. I note that in the submissions the honourable member refers to that is a topic of criticism, if it was being proposed here.

The discussion paper set out one possible model. I will include in my comments that we don't have a formal view, as the government, as to what if anything will change in relation to the minimum age of criminal responsibility, but the discussion paper was a start to look at what various models might be in place if it wasn't a strictly criminal justice model.

Consultation has closed. There are some dozens and dozens of submissions. I have read a summary of all the submissions that have been made. I am now working my way through what will amount to many hundreds of pages of submissions made by a whole range of stakeholders who have views on this and then the government will decide what action it takes.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:47): Supplementary: will the government commit to releasing the submissions publicly so that members of parliament and the community can consider the stakeholder feedback?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (14:47): I thank the honourable member for his question. I am certainly happy to consider this. I am trying to remember, amongst the many submissions, if there may have been some that were asked to remain confidential, particularly if they were ones that talk about people with lived experience. Particularly in the youth criminal justice system there will be very good reasons to remain confidential. But I am happy to have a look at it to see what we can do in relation to that.


Condolence Motion for Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue

9 April 2024

I rise to support this motion and to recognise the remarkable life and contribution of a truly great South Australian, Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue, and pay tribute to her remarkable legacy. I also join with my parliamentary colleagues in extending my sympathy to her friends and family.

Dr O'Donoghue was born in 1932, and her life and commitment to social justice was shaped by her experiences as a young child. At just two years of age, missionaries acting on behalf of the Aboriginal Protection Board took Dr O'Donoghue from her mother and placed her in the Colebrook children's home in Quorn. There, her given name, Lowitja, was changed to Lois, she was prohibited from speaking her own language and she did not see her mother again for more than 30 years. In a media release back in 2001, Dr O'Donoghue said:

I know that my Aboriginal mother would have had no legal recourse, nor any moral support, in resisting our removal…her grief was unbearable.

Dr O'Donoghue's experience mirrored that of tens of thousands of other members of the stolen generation, and her courage in speaking up and sharing her experiences has helped in our nation's journey towards reconciliation.

She said that the seeds of her commitment to human rights and social justice were sown in her childhood and, as has been noted in this place, the matron of the Colebrook children's home said that she would not amount to anything. We know how wrong that was. Dr O'Donoghue grew up to become one of the nation's most influential people.

At age 16, Dr O'Donoghue was encouraged to work as a nursing aide at the local Victor Harbor Hospital. When she later applied to complete her nursing training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital she was refused the opportunity because of her Aboriginal heritage. In 1994, she said of that discrimination:

I'd resolved that one of the fights was to actually open the door to Aboriginal women to take up the nursing profession and also for those young men to get into apprenticeships.

This was a fight that Dr O'Donoghue took on with great commitment and great passion. She joined the Aborigines Advancement League, which had taken up the fight to allow Aboriginal women to enter the nursing profession and this experience, I understand, provided the opportunity to meet Aboriginal rights activists from across the country and led to a lifetime commitment to politics.

In 1954, after a long struggle to gain admission, including a personal appeal to the then premier of the day, Sir Thomas Playford, Dr O'Donoghue was finally admitted and worked hard as a trainee to overcome the negative expectations of staff and discrimination, going on to become the hospital's first Aboriginal nurse—a significant achievement. This was one of many barriers that Dr O'Donoghue broke down in her life. She remained there for 10 years, being promoted first to a charge sister, despite confronting those ongoing experiences of racism.

In the 1960s, Dr O'Donoghue travelled to northern India and worked as a nurse with the Baptist overseas mission. When she returned to Australia in 1962, she worked as an Aboriginal liaison officer with the South Australian government Department of Education and later transferred to the SA Department of Aboriginal Affairs and was employed as a welfare officer, based mainly in Coober Pedy.

It was during her 10 years in this work that she built a reputation for her ability to advocate for justice for Aboriginal people, and this ability shone through in her campaigning on the 1967 referendum—a turning point in the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. In 1967, she joined the newly established Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and from 1970 to 1972 she was a member of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement. In 1977, she became the founding Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Conference.

At age 47, Dr O'Donoghue met Gordon Smart, a medical orderly from the Adelaide Repatriation Hospital, whom she married in 1979. In 1990, Dr O'Donoghue was appointed the inaugural Chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), where she won universal admiration for her leadership, her tenacity and her integrity. A highlight was her pivotal role in that tense and complex negotiation period that enabled the creation and passing of Prime Minister Keating's native title legislation, which of course arose from the High Court's historic Mabo decision.

As has been noted by my colleagues, Dr O'Donoghue was the first Aboriginal person to address the United Nations General Assembly in 1992. She also campaigned in 1993 for the Australian republic. She was somebody who made an absolutely fundamental contribution not only to South Australia but to our nation.

Our country is a better place because of the leadership of Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue. I know that her remarkable story will continue to inspire future generations of South Australians and Australians. I join with my colleagues in extending my sympathy to her friends and family. I thank the Attorney-General for putting forward this motion today.


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.