Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 24 November 2022) . . Page.. 3849 ..
24 January. The final sitting in March would be double the normal time for an inquiry. I agree that Christmas will take up some time; hence, I have selected in my amendment a reporting date of 31 January as a more reasonable time for the completion of the inquiry, to take into account the public holidays.
Finally, we have discussed previously in this place the need to respect committees and their ability to prioritise and manage their work. Whilst I admit that that practice in this chamber has varied, I think it is a practice we should continue. Hence, I have included the word “request” at the start of my amendment.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (5.31): I rise to indicate that I will be supporting Mr Braddock’s amendment to the motion moved by Ms Lee today. The time frame specified in Mr Braddock’s amendment takes account of the small amount of additional time that may be required due to the Christmas break but reflects the relative simplicity of the amendment that appears to be the focus of Ms Lee’s attention.
I am surprised by how tenaciously Ms Lee advocated for the bill’s referral to a committee this morning, declaring that it is a significant piece of law reform that warrants thorough inquiry. While I do agree with describing it as an important piece of law reform, I am somewhat sceptical as to the claim that it is so significant that this collection of subsections really requires the four months of inquiry that Ms Lee has proposed here today. It does not become an earth-shattering amendment simply by attempting to speak that into being. I do not believe that there are any other elements of the bill that have garnered Ms Lee’s ire, just these few subsections from the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.
The standard time frame for a committee to resolve an inquiry is two months, and that is for entire bills. I struggle to understand Ms Lee’s motivation as to why she feels compelled to advocate here for four months. In reality, this is just a simple piece of law reform. It allows for witnesses in trials about deeply confronting content to only go through that difficult experience the minimum number of times. It preserves the evidence of cross-examination from the original trial and still allows for further questions to be asked and for that recorded evidence to be challenged. This treatment has also been common practice, as I understand it, in a number of recent trials, where such recordings have been tendered as hearsay by consent of the parties. Clearly, even people whose liberty is at stake do not perceive that there is any particular unfairness.
I would also note that this amendment will bring us into full alignment with recommendation 56 of the Criminal Justice Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Recommendation 56 provided the following:
State and territory governments should introduce legislation to require the audiovisual recording of evidence given by complainants and other witnesses that the prosecution considers necessary in child sexual abuse prosecutions, whether tried on indictment or summarily, and to allow these recordings to be tendered and relied on as the relevant witness’s evidence in any subsequent trial or retrial. The legislation should apply regardless of whether the relevant witness gives evidence live in court, via closed circuit television or in a prerecorded hearing.