Page 1012 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2023

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The amendments will allow evidence given in a courtroom to be treated the same as testimony given via an audiovisual link. Importantly, these amendments are aimed at ensuring that vulnerable witnesses in sexual assault and family violence matters are not forced to give evidence in a subsequent proceeding, which can be extremely traumatising. The Canberra Liberals fully support the intent of these amendments.

However, we do express concern over the timing and lack of consultation with the legal community around these provisions. Concerns were raised with Ms Lee and me that, at the time the bill was introduced, there had been only limited consultation with the legal community over what are significant changes to the way evidence is recorded and treated in a relevant proceeding.

As I said earlier, the Canberra Liberals do support these amendments in principle, as any changes will mean vulnerable witnesses will not have to be re-traumatised by giving evidence again in a related proceeding where that evidence has been recorded in a court proceeding. Not only do the Canberra Liberals support this; it is my understanding that the legal community in general supports these changes.

The lack of consultation in the development of these amendments is concerning. One thing that occurs to me is that hasty consultation often means there are missed opportunities for ancillary or even other substantive improvements to law. The feedback we have received from stakeholders is that no-one disagrees with the intent of these changes, but many remain concerned over the lack of sufficient time to properly consider these amendments before they were introduced into the Assembly.

The lack of genuine and meaningful consultation was also raised by the justice and community safety committee in its inquiry into the bill. The committee found that, while the intent of the bill was supported in principle, there had been significant issues raised during the inquiry, and the government should consult further with stakeholders on how the laws should apply and how the changes will be implemented. As I said, perhaps there were other related issues that could have been dealt with more fully. I note that the Attorney-General himself acknowledged this in his response to the JACS committee’s findings, and I welcome his commitment to work closely with stakeholders on any future amendments.

In addition, a number of resourcing issues—including whether the courts had the necessary equipment—were raised during the committee inquiry, and with us directly, by stakeholders. In its report, the committee noted that other jurisdictions have been given substantial funding to improve the audiovisual equipment in courtrooms, so I will be interested to hear from the government, and I will be keenly monitoring, what resources will be given to the courts to ensure that they are adequately equipped so that these amendments can actually be implemented procedurally.

As I said, the JACS bill makes amendments to 10 pieces of legislation or regulations. Noting the time, I support the changes that are made to nine other pieces of legislation. They extend the clear policy intent that we support in those pieces of legislation, so the Canberra Liberals will be supporting this bill.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions

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