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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 336..


MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I close by reiterating that I think that the amendment Mr Pratt has on the table is far more preferable. I note that even the Council for Civil Liberties preferred his bill, which was defeated. I note that the government has made some attempt-obviously it was forced to as a result of Mr Pratt's attempts over several years-to put in place legislation to overcome this real glitch, this real problem, this real omission from ACT legislation for many years and that it has sought to protect the rights of women, sought to protect the rights of foetuses, unborn children in the womb; sought to protect effectively the rights of innocent members of our community.

Indeed, I think I might have indicated earlier that one of the most abhorrent crimes is to assault a woman, especially to assault a pregnant woman, but, sadly, it does occur in our society. It is to be abhorred. It deserves the most severe penalties and the opprobrium of right-thinking people. Strong laws are needed to deter it from occurring but, if it does, we should ensure that the laws are adequate to deal with this particularly nasty type of offence against pregnant women. Mr Pratt has, through his efforts, at least forced the government to address, perhaps inadequately, this most important issue. At least we have taken a step forward today in that this legislation will be passed as a result of that.

I close by indicating again that I am pleased to see the government increase penalties in at least some areas. I do refer the government to the fact that a lot of the substantive penalties in the New South Wales act for these particular crimes are far higher than they are in the ACT. In looking at the new Criminal Code and crimes against a person, I would certainly commend to the government the need to get in line with other states there. I hope that that is happening not only here but also across the rest of Australia.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (11.23): Mr Speaker, I wish to show further support for Mr Pratt's intentions and his very clear position in this matter. It must be reiterated that the offences against pregnant women bill was tabled by the Chief Minister in November of last year in what could only be perceived to be a response to the previously tabled protection of the unborn child bill that Mr Pratt had put before the Assembly and saw twice rejected by the Stanhope government.

Despite the fact that several adjustments were made in a redraft, Mr Pratt will be today tabling a further amendment, which I will fully support, to obtain, one may hope, a position from the government on the medical or precise status of what it believes to be the definition of unborn child. Mr Speaker, I really believe that the amendment proposed by the opposition is sensible and strengthens the status of the unborn child. The question here, of course, is: who, even the government, has the right to place a precise time frame on when a status can be established in relation to an unborn child?

I have to concur with Mr Stefaniak's comments regarding culpable driving. I do not believe that it is an adequate defence on the part of the government to say that someone driving recklessly may not have known a woman was pregnant. Mr Stefaniak cited the case of a child in the back seat of a car who died as a result of such reckless actions and who may not have been seen by the driver at the time, yet the driver was still charged with culpable driving.

The government has previously failed, in my opinion, to initiate any constructive debate on this matter. It has previously made no attempt to highlight the seriousness of bringing


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