Page 1298 - Week 04 - Thursday, 5 May 2022
I thank all stakeholders who have contributed to this bill, from victim survivors to community advocates and members of the legal profession. I also acknowledge the work of the sexual assault and prevention working group—the enormous amount of work that they have done to make sure that this bill is in its current form.
I do note the concerns that have been raised by some stakeholders from the legal profession about the possible unintended consequences of affecting the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. In our drive to improve consent laws, we must not take these concerns lightly, and that is why I am pleased to see that Dr Paterson has included a review provision in this bill. Our criminal justice system is not perfect, and perhaps some would say that it is far from perfect. But it does include some fundamental presumptions and protections that we fiercely protect, and the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence are a huge part of what makes our legal system what it is today.
Law reform is important, and it is incumbent on us, as leaders of our community and as elected members who have the privilege of making laws that impact everyone in our community, to ensure that our laws reflect, as much as possible, what we as a society have deemed acceptable and unacceptable.
There is no place in our society for sexual assault, no place for sexual activity without consent and in no case for there to be any doubt about consent when it comes to sexual interactions. But there is also no doubt that the legal framework surrounding consent is a complex one, as acknowledged by the Attorney-General. I acknowledge the work that has been done on this bill in a very careful and respectful manner to get it to where we are today.
Of course, law reform alone is not enough. It is an important aspect of change in this area, but it requires public education. It requires a shift in our culture and attitudes. So much of this responsibility lies with everyone in our society.
I thank Dr Paterson for bringing forward this bill. The Canberra Liberals support this bill, but let us not forget that this cannot be the end of the discussion on consent and the work that we must continue to do to end sexual violence and assault in our society. This bill is a good step forward, and we must all continue to not get complacent and to do what is in our control in creating a safer environment for everyone.
MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Early Childhood Development, Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for Women) (3.42): I would first like to commend and thank Dr Paterson for her continued work on this important issue that impacts on the entire community. Dr Paterson’s approach to the introduction of this bill to the Assembly and the way that she consulted with the community was incredibly thorough, and it made sure that the bill was in a really good place to be considered in the Assembly as it was presented. I want to acknowledge all of the work that Dr Paterson has done in making sure that that work occurred before it was brought into the Assembly. Taking the time to get the bill into a position where it is as right as it can be took an incredible amount of work, and I commend her again on that.