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Changes to the law

The following Bills fall under the responsibility of the Attorney-General and are currently open for consultation, before Parliament or have recently passed Parliament.

Religious exceptions - Anti-discrimination changes

The law currently allows some organisations to discriminate in relation to their staffing practices and how they provide services to their clients. The State Government intends to amend the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 to clarify that organisations providing certain essential services – e.g. health care and aged care – cannot discriminate against workers and care recipients on the basis of sex or LGBTIQ identity.

It is also proposed to create an exception that allows people or organisations to discriminate when selecting people for direct participation in religious practices, which will preserve important religious freedoms. The changes would not affect the current ability of religious schools to hire staff in accordance with their religious values.

This will bring South Australia into line with almost every other Australian state and territory.

The State Government has consulted on the proposed changes.

More information

Consultation page at yoursay.sa.gov.au/religious-exceptions-changes

Equal Opportunity (Religious Bodies) Amendment Bill 2020 (PDF 45KB)

Identity theft reform

South Australia's identity theft legislation needs to be updated to reflect the changing nature of identity crime. Identity thieves have been exploiting the growth in online transactions and contactless payments, and they often target members of the community via electronic communications such as email and social media to gather person identity information. A range of crimes are committed using the victim's identity. Also there is a black market in identity documents and these are often taken so they can be on-sold. 

Under the current legislation it is difficult to prosecute people who use a false identity or misuse personal ID information, and it is not always possible for victims to get an identity theft certificate to help them reverse the damage done as a result of having their identity stolen.

The State Government intends to amend the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 and make related amendments to the Sentencing Act 2017 and Criminal Procedure Act 1921 to update the laws that deal with identity theft.

The State Government is consulting on the proposed changes.

More information

Consultation page at yoursay.sa.gov.au/identity-theft-reforms

Summary Offences (Disrespectful Conduct in Court) Amendment Bill

The Summary Offences (Disrespectful Conduct in Court) Amendment Bill aims to address disruptive or offensive behaviour in court.

The offence would apply to a party to the proceeding, and would include behaviour such as refusing to stand for a judge, using offensive or threatening language. It aims to resolve the issue of this behaviour undermining the authority of the court and causing interruption to the proceedings.

It will not apply to involuntary behaviour, such as movement or vocalising due to a medical condition or disability.

The Bill does not seek to change the current offence of contempt of court or powers to remove someone from the court, but to add an offence where there is currently a gap.

The Bill proposes that the offence would not apply to youths or to any proceedings in the Criminal jurisdiction of the Youth Court.

The proposed offence would have a maximum penalty of $1250 or three months imprisonment.

Criminal Assets Confiscation (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

Status: new laws commenced

New laws passed Parliament in 2016 to allow the state government to strip ‘prescribed’ drug offenders of all their property, regardless of whether or not it is connected to a particular criminal offence or is a proceed of crime. A prescribed drug offender is someone who has three drug convictions over a 10 year period for a range of nominated offences, such as trafficking or manufacturing drugs.

The Criminal Assets Confiscation (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018 seeks to modify these laws so that property can be excluded from the automatic forfeiture if it is not financially viable. For example, if the cost of collecting and selling an item would be higher than the value of the goods, or if it would be uneconomical to seize the property, the Crown can apply for it to be excluded. This decision would be made by the Director of Public Prosecution.

Other items are also excluded by Regulation, including property such as personal items, children’s necessities and certain household items.

The Bill amends provisions introduced by the Criminal Assets Confiscation (Prescribed Drug Offenders) Amendment Act 2016, which will apply from 10 August 2018.

Judicial Conduct Commissioner (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018

This Bill amends the Judicial Conduct Commissioner Act 2015 to enhance the Commissioner’s effectiveness, and to enable him to deploy resources in the most efficient manner.

Under the changes, the Commissioner would be able to investigate matters when new evidence comes to light, enlivening a complaint that would otherwise have to have been dismissed.

In addition, the Commissioner would be able to dismiss complaints without a formal preliminary examination– ensuring resources can be directed to those complaints that require formal consideration and investigation.

These changes also give the Commissioner broader discretion when disclosing the identity of a complainant, to give people greater confidence that their complaint will be dealt with sensitively and appropriately.

More information

Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018

The Criminal Procedure (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018 has passed Parliament. The Bill was initiated to address and remedy some unintended consequences of major indictable reforms introduced by the Summary Procedure (Indictable Offences) Amendment Act 2017.

Once commenced, the legislation will impact on the procedures applicable to all major indictable matters as they progress through the criminal justice system.

The key matters resolved by the Bill include:

  • restoring a provision related to the procedure for pleading guilty in writing
  • addressing any unintentional exposure of parties to costs orders in what has historically been a “no-costs” jurisdiction
  • resolving the unintentional re-instatement of previously repealed provisions related to “discreditable conduct notices”; and
  • easing any onerous stipulations requiring defendants to sign case statements only in the presence of their legal representative.

More information

Electoral (Prisoner Voting) Amendment Bill 2018

A Bill has been introduced proposing that prisoners serving a sentence of more than 3 years be disqualified from voting in a state election while they are serving that sentence.

The Bill outlines that affected prisoners will remain on the electoral roll, and be eligible to vote after their release.

Prisoners serving a sentence of less than 3 years will be continue to be eligible to vote while they are serving their sentence. This change would align South Australian elections with the rules for federal elections.

More information

Child protection Bills

Access current Bills related to protecting children and young people which are currently before Parliament or have recently passed Parliament.

Evidence (Journalists) Amendment Bill 2018 | Shield laws
Status: new laws commenced

The Evidence (Journalists) Amendment Bill 2018 passed Parliament on 02 August 2018. The Bill gives journalists clear legal protections when they refuse to disclose information or material that may identify their sources.

These protections promote accountability and transparency in government, and contain safeguards to prevent the laws from being exploited (for example, disclosing information to a journalist for self-gain). In these cases, a court-based public interest test will determine whether or not the journalist must name their source.

Elements to be considered include whether the public interest in disclosing the identity of the informant:
  • outweighs any likely adverse effect of the disclosure on the informant or any other person
  • outweighs the public interest relating to the communication of information by the news media generally
  • outweighs the need of the news media to be able to access information held by potential informants.

More information

Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (Investigation Powers) Amendment Bill 2018
Under the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (Investigation Powers) Amendment Bill 2018, ICAC will have the ability to choose whether to hold public hearings if it is of interest to the South Australian community. 

Public hearings aim to increase transparency and accountability in the public sector, and promote community confidence in government. 

The matters that the commissioner may take into consideration when deciding to hold a public inquiry are set out in Clause 2 of Schedule 3A of the ICAC Bill.

The new schedule to the ICAC Act will clarify and consolidate the powers and functions of ICAC when investigating maladministration and misconduct in public administration.

More information

Statutes Amendment (Drug Offences) Bill 2018

Drug abuse can have a devastating impact on individuals, their families and the broader community.

The Statutes Amendment (Drug Offences) Bill 2018 has been introduced into Parliament, and proposes a number of changes to crackdown on drug offenders. This includes increased penalties for cannabis possession in line with community expectations, and limiting the number of drug diversions before a person must be charged with an offence.

If passed, this Bill will change the Controlled Substances Act 1984 and the Sentencing Act 2017.

Drug diversion programs

Under the current law, police must allow a person who has been detected for a simple drug possession offence to participate in an intervention program as an alternative to entering the justice system.  

If the person meets the requirements of the intervention program, they do not need to face court. There is currently no limit to the number of times an offender can participate in a drug diversion program.

If passed, this Bill will limit the number of times someone can enter a drug diversion program to 2 in a 4 year period. This change aims to prevent repeat drug offenders from using intervention programs to avoid court and serious penalties, while providing alternative treatment options for first and second time offenders who are seriously trying to rehabilitate.

Cannabis penalties

The Bill recognises the harmful effects of ongoing cannabis use by increasing the maximum penalty for cannabis possession from $500 to $2,000.

If passed, police will still be able issue an expiation notice to a person caught with cannabis instead of prosecuting. An expiation notice allows the person to pay a fee instead of going through the court system.

Increasing penalties for serious drug offenders

Under current drug laws a person can be charged with either a basic offence or an aggravated offence, which attracts harsher penalties. For example, someone who manufactures drugs for sale can have their charges upgraded to an aggravated offence if they are making the drugs for a criminal organisation. 

The Bill proposes that the court takes a person’s relevant criminal history into account when choosing a penalty, with ‘serious drug offenders’ facing the same tough penalties that apply to aggravated offences.

A person is considered a serious drug offender if they have 3 previous convictions in the past 10 years for drug offences, or 2 previous convictions in the past 10 years that involve commercial quantities of drugs or that involve children or school zones.

In addition, maximum fines have doubled from $500,000 to $1 million for people who traffic and manufacture large commercial amounts of controlled drugs and controlled plants.


Under the current law, someone who sells a controlled drug and is charged with a basic offence faces a maximum penalty of $50,000 or 10 years in prison, regardless of how many past drug convictions they have. Under the proposed changes, people with several drug convictions can face harsher penalties up to $75,000 or 15 years imprisonment, in line with penalties for an aggravated offence.

Increasing protections for children

If the Bill passes, a person will no longer be able to receive a suspended sentence or home detention order if they are charged with a drug offence that involves children or that occurs within a school zone. This includes anyone who sells or gives drugs to children.

The Bill also requires the court to consider whether a child was present where drugs were manufactured when choosing a penalty. This would apply in cases where drugs are made at a house where children live or are present.

Terrorism (Police Powers) (Use of Force) Amendment Bill 2018

Status: new laws commenced

The provisions outlined in the Bill provide a clear legislative statement that police can use force to protect the community from an attacker in an officially declared terrorist incident.

Amendments in the Bill would make it possible for the Commissioner of Police to make a declaration of a terrorism incident.

This ‘use of force’ amendment would support police to respond appropriately to the situation and to keep the community safe.

These provisions would be similar to the legislation introduced in NSW following the Lindt Café Siege.

The Sentencing (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018

The Sentencing (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018 amends the Sentencing Act 2017 which commenced on 30 April 2018. This Act repealed and replaced the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988.

The Bill addresses minor issues that have been identified by key stakeholders while implementing the Sentencing Act. These issues appear to have arisen as a result of drafting oversight or are matters that would otherwise benefit from further clarification.