Page 823 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 29 March 2023

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The Committee strongly recommends that the ACT Government work with stakeholders on the implementation of the Bill in relation to the concerns raised in the inquiry.

I want to note that some stakeholders raised concerns that there was limited time to provide comments or input during the development of these provisions. These concerns were echoed by some submissions to the inquiry. While there was a limited time frame during the development phase, it is also clear that this bill has gone through a normal process in the Assembly.

The inclusion of the provision in this bill was designed to ensure that there was a specific opportunity for public consideration of the provision. This included enabling the opportunity for the committee to conduct an inquiry into the bill, to take public submissions and provide a view to both the government and this Assembly. This approach could be compared to an alternative option where the provision was introduced as a government amendment later in the life of the bill. While a government amendment would have allowed more time for stakeholder consultation, it would not necessarily have afforded the same opportunity for the committee or the broader public to scrutinise the proposal.

Feedback, comments and input from stakeholders is always incredibly valuable to the law reform efforts of this government. It is imperative that there is an open dialogue between government, stakeholders and the wider community. Listening to the concerns raised by stakeholders and the community builds faith in our system, as well as trust in the government. Indeed, it was in the context of stakeholder comments on a systemic concern that the government urgently initiated this particular amendment. The amendment has the potential to significantly improve the experience of vulnerable witnesses in our justice system, an objective this government seeks to promote wherever possible.

As the Assembly may be aware, the Listen. Take action to prevent, believe and heal report, published in December 2021, outlined that many victims feel that the territory’s criminal justice system has let them down. A common concern has been that the system continues to re-traumatise victims. It is well known that sexual and violent offending affects many domains of a victim’s life, including health and wellbeing, relationships, and employment.

That is why, having considered the committee’s recommendations, as outlined in the government response, the government will consider including further amendments to this provision in the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act later this year. That context and timing will allow the government to work closely with stakeholders, having regard to their practical experience of implementation and any issues that arise. As always, the impact of the amendments on human rights will also be carefully monitored and considered. This approach will ensure that our legislation is fit for purpose and is both protecting the community and upholding human rights.

In closing, I thank the standing committee for conducting the public inquiry into the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 (No 2) and for providing an opportunity for an ongoing discussion about safeguards for vulnerable

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