Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 967..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
result of assault, the New South Wales Court of Appeal found aggravated assault because of the fact that that woman was pregnant. So this is occurring anyway.
I am very pleased to see what the government is doing here: amendments will be made to the offences of manslaughter, dangerous conduct causing death, intentionally causing serious harm, recklessly causing serious harm, negligently causing serious harm, intentionally causing harm and recklessly causing harm. This will mean having the capacity for aggravated sentencing. I understand from what Mr Stanhope was saying that 25 years would go to 35 years if an aggravated offence was established by the fact of the woman being pregnant.
I will talk to some of the issues in Mr Pratt's bill that concern me, apart from the fact that it basically defines a foetus as distinct from its mother. This obviously suits the philosophical and religious views of everyone, as I understand it, in the Liberal Party. It raises some obvious serious legal questions, which is a debate that the Liberals want to have. They have made that quite clear, and that is the debate we have already had with abortion. Because I am interested in dealing with this kind of violence against women I think that what the government is doing is much better.
Going back to the concerns I have about Mr Pratt's bill, what does "usual and customary standards of medical practice"mean when we are looking at where these offences, or this section, do not apply? Subsection 42A (1) (b)-anything done by a pregnant woman in relation to her own unborn child-is interesting because that is an exemption; the section does not apply to that. But what would happen if the woman and father of the foetus did something in some way, or the woman and her mother did something? That is certainly the case in traditions where they seek to cause a miscarriage-for example, through herbs and different cultural remedies. If something is done in that way, why would that make that other person more culpable than the woman herself?
I am also interested in the definition that Mr Pratt uses, which is extremely broad: "unborn child"means a foetus at any stage of its development. Ms Dundas made those points as well. I do not think it is a well-crafted bill. While I share the concerns of the Liberals about how long it has taken the government to do something about amending the criminal code, doing that is a far better approach to dealing with this issue.
I would also like to make a couple of comments about violence against women generally, which Mr Pratt claims is the basis of this piece of legislation. It is important that the Assembly address this issue, and I would like us to have a very good look at the incidence of domestic violence within our community at the moment. I am getting emails from men in our community who are very angry about our domestic violence laws.
That has again raised the question for me of how else we can deal with this problem in our society. There are some men who feel that our laws are not fair to them and, obviously, that has been argued against by many people in the community. For me the key question is not so much whether men are unfairly done by as why it is that we still have such a high incidence of domestic violence. What are we not doing as an Assembly or as a community to reduce the incidence of that violence?
When we were doing the inquiry into the health of school-aged children, the whole question of violence in our community came up: what we were telling our children, the