Parliament has watered down the NSW government’s tough mandatory sentencing laws to only target the most serious cases of “gross” violence.
Premier Barry O’Farrell wants to toughen laws so that mandatory sentences are handed down to people who commit serious violent offences while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
But Labor believes the proposed laws are too harsh and could target people involved in minor scuffles.
Labor’s amendment, which passed the upper house with the support of the Greens and the Shooters Party, seeks to change the government’s measures so that just one offence, called “gross violence”, will attract a minimum sentence.
Despite calling the amendments “entirely unworkable”, coalition MPs voted in favour of the amended bill, which now goes to the lower house for debate.
The Greens were the only party to vote against the amended bill, after earlier voting for Labor’s amendments.
Police Minister Michael Gallacher said the Labor Party’s changes were an “oversimplification” and “completely unnecessary”.
“These opposition amendments are simply an attempt to water down the government’s tough response to alcohol-related violence to the point where it is completely unworkable in practice,” he told the chamber.
Shooters MP Robert Borsak feared the government’s plan would allow a “minority” of police to abuse their enhanced powers.
“We are getting to the point where a person is presumed guilty until proven innocent,” he said.
Greens MP David Shoebridge hoped the amended bill would eventually be scrapped by the “chest-beating” premier.
“If that’s the outcome, well then the Greens will be extremely pleased to see this bill fail it in its entirety,” he told parliament.
Opposition Leader John Robertson said that while he did not want to play politics with cracking down on alcohol and drug-fuelled violence, his amendments would better target “violent thugs”.
The anti-violence measures come after both houses of parliament in January passed the government’s eight-year minimum mandatory sentencing laws for fatal one-punch assaults if alcohol or drugs are involved.
The measures follow public outrage over the rise of serious drunken assaults in Sydney, including the separate fatal one-punch assaults on 18-year-olds Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie in Kings Cross.