06 July, 2022

The Hon. J.S. LEE (15:22): 

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Attorney-General a question regarding the age of criminal responsibility.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.S. LEE: 

It was reported in InDaily on 10 May 2022 that the minister said he is, and I quote:

…open to raising the age of criminal responsibility.

The minister continued to say that he would, and I quote:

…continue to meet with stakeholders to determine whether South Australia should raise the criminal age, noting that doing so was something that we—

meaning the state government—

will be turning our mind to.

My questions to the Attorney are:

1. What stakeholders has the Attorney met with to discuss the issue?

2. Has the Attorney spoken to his ACT counterpart, Shane Rattenbury, about the approach that he has taken?

3. How far has the Attorney progressed in his consideration of raising the age of criminal responsibility?


The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:23): 

I thank the honourable member for her important question. Certainly, work continues within government in looking at comparisons around the world in the many places that have raised the minimum age—places like Ireland, New Zealand, Spain and Estonia. Over the last decade or two, there are many jurisdictions around the world that have two different ages and have raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and that work continues.

I am due to have further discussions with ministers from the ACT in relation to the approach they have taken. I am looking forward to consulting also with Tasmania. I have talked to Labor colleagues in the ACT government about some of the things that have affected their portfolio, particularly my colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the ACT government. I look forward to also talking to my sort-of colleague, the Greens member of the ACT cabinet, the Attorney-General, in the ACT government. It is certainly something I know that my Greens colleague the Hon. Robert Simms in this place shares a passion and a concern for with the Greens Attorney-General in the ACT—

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: 

'Colleagues' in a broader sense.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: 

Colleagues in a very broad sense. We are all colleagues in this place and colleagues across other places. These certainly are issues that have been raised already. They are issues we will continue to discuss, because it is an important issue. As questions that were asked earlier touched upon, there is the very significant over-representation of Aboriginal people in the youth justice system and also in the adult prison population.

Certainly, one thing in the briefings I have had and the amount of reading I have done, one of the determinants in the readings I have done—it is not lost on me that one of the determinants that factors into a person's contact with the prison system as an adult is contact as a juvenile with the detention system. So it does not just affect children but it affects people later in life, the contact they have with detention systems.

As I have said, there are different models that have been put in place in different jurisdictions around the world, including the age that criminal responsibility is put to: 12 and 14, I think, internationally are the most common ones that have been either contemplated or implemented. As I said earlier in response to a question—I can't remember what it is called; it used to be the Standing Council of Attorneys-General—MAG, the Meeting of Attorneys-General, certainly has put out communiqués in the past.

No, it's MAG now, not SCAG. The Meeting of Attorneys-General certainly has come to an agreement in the past to do work to raise the age to 12. That is seen as a good start, but there are those who advocate for going beyond 12 to raise it to 14, and that is what the ACT is looking at doing. I think that is what Tasmania is contemplating doing straightaway—to the age of 14. We are looking at what we do in South Australia.

The former government, the Liberal government, was part of the group of attorneys-general that committed to raising to the age of 12, so we are looking at what that commitment would entail and how that could work in South Australia. But also, and I think sensibly—and I think it is probably what any government would do—looking at, when new initiatives are implemented in other jurisdictions, like they are in the ACT, what that entails, what the effect will be and what is needed.

The honourable member also asked about stakeholders. I have had, and I am just trying to put a number on it, many meetings with stakeholders, both in opposition and also in government, about this issue. Groups that deal in the justice reform area—groups such as Raise The Age, with Cheryl Axleby, who was former head of the ALRM group; the, I think, Justice Reform Initiative, which had a function at Government House very early on and which I have had a number of discussions with; and groups such as Amnesty International—are keenly pursuing this matter.

So there are a range of groups across the community that have had a discussion, both in opposition and in government, about what raising the age would entail, in terms of the commitment that has already been made by all Australian jurisdictions to 12 but also a discussion about what is entailed with other jurisdictions, such as the ACT and the desire of Tasmania.