Page 1297 - Week 04 - Thursday, 5 May 2022

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believed that many allegations of sexual assault made by women are false. Thirty-one per cent of participants believed that often women who say they were raped have led the man on and then had regrets.

The evidence actually shows the opposite. False reports of sexual assaults are very rare. In fact, we have a very serious problem of under-reporting by victims of sexual assault. Fears about false claims of sexual assault may be partly shaped by misguided understandings about consent, and this bill may go some way to address these attitudes by making it clear that consent involves ongoing and mutual communication between parties.

While legislative reform alone will not change attitudes, it does play an essential role in clearly defining our standards as a community as to the behaviour we accept. As the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Steering Committee’s listening report makes clear, if we are to eliminate sexual violence, there is still an enormous amount of work to do in the community to address the underlying attitudes that normalise abuse of power in the form of sexual violence.

These are attitudes that entrench gender stereotypes and perpetuate disrespect for women and girls, and cultural values that promote male entitlement and power over both women and children. In passing this bill, this Assembly plays a part in helping to change those cultural attitudes.

This bill modernises the law of consent to ensure that it reflects today’s community standards and expectations of consensual sexual activity. It is not that long ago that sexual offences could only be committed by a male accused against a female victim or that it was not a crime to have sexual intercourse without consent within a marriage. These are now outdated notions and this bill takes further steps to ensure that our laws continue to keep up with current social norms.

Once again I thank Dr Paterson and her staff for their work on this bill. I look forward to working collaboratively with my Assembly colleagues in all parties and key community stakeholders in our ongoing work to prevent and respond to sexual violence in the ACT community. The ACT government is pleased to support this bill today.

MS LEE (Kurrajong—Leader of the Opposition) (3.38): I thank Dr Paterson for her work in this important area. The Canberra Liberals support this bill. This is an area of law reform that was brought by Caroline Le Couteur and discussed at length in the last term. Whilst the intent of the bill was in no doubt, it was clear from the committee inquiry into Ms Le Couteur’s bill that there were significant flaws which prevented both the Liberals and Labor from supporting it in that form.

I understand that a significant amount of work has been done to update and improve this bill. One of the recommendations in the committee report into Ms Le Couteur’s bill in the last term was to await the outcome of the inquiry of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission into a positive definition of consent. I am pleased to see that the New South Wales government’s leadership in this area has driven and informed a large part of the debate that we are currently having in the ACT.

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