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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 8 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 3432..


Victims of Crime Amendment Bill 2010

Debate resumed from 1 July 2010, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.11): The opposition will be supporting this bill, but we will be proposing some amendments in the detail stage of the debate. In supporting this bill, we consider that it falls a long way short of the stated intent of the Attorney-General. The explanatory statement and the attorney's presentation speech and, indeed, the briefing that my staff received on this bill from officials of the Department of Justice and Community Safety tout this bill as one that seeks to put the ACT back at the forefront of law reform in the area of assistance to victims of crime. In fact, however, this bill does little more than juggle things around a bit to create a new little empire which will cost the ACT taxpayers more money but without any tangible benefit to flow to the victims of crime. And all of this has taken two years to do.

It began with an issues paper of more than 100 pages in June 2008, followed by a time of public submissions, followed by a review of a somewhat insular reference group with no external representation. The bottom line is that this Attorney-General has allowed a process to take place which, in effect, allowed a self-review and a self-restructure to take place within one of his agencies with no tangible benefits flowing to external stakeholders, least of all the actual victims of crime.

What does this bill seek to do? Boiling it down, it seeks to do three things. First, it establishes a statutory commissioner position: the Victim of Crime Commissioner. Secondly, it replaces the current Victims Assistance Board with a new board: the Victims Advisory Board. Thirdly, it seeks to rearrange the various functions and duties such that many of the functions of the Victims Assistance Board and the chief executive of the department will fall to the commissioner, and that is it.

There has been a 100-page issues discussion paper, a public submission process and an internal reference group, and over two years that is the reform that this minister has brought forward in the area of assistance to victims of crime. This Attorney-General thinks that that puts the ACT back at the forefront of law reform and support for victims of crime.

Even with the three elements that this bill seeks to address, the Attorney-General cannot get it right, because his bill creates three potential problems. Firstly, he allowed a situation to develop whereby a person potentially might be denied the right to a fair trial; secondly, he allowed potentially serious conflicts of interest to rest with the commissioner; and thirdly, he has given his advisory board a decision-making power which is contrary to the basic concept of an advisory board, which is to advise, not to make decisions. These matters are subject to my proposed amendments, and I will deal with them more fully in the detail stage.

It is all very well for me to come to these conclusions about this bill, but what do other people have to say? In summary, the ACT Law Society consider the bill


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