Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 November 2021) . . Page.. 3281 ..
working online, and I can assure Jason that we will continue to fight on this important cause. I know that he will not let this go, because although this is something that no longer affects him, he does not want what happened to him to affect other police out there on the front line.
I would like to thank the scrutiny of bills committee, which made some important observations that we adapted and included in the revised explanatory statement for the bill. And, of course, I would like to thank our frontline community service workers. They do important work in very difficult circumstances and they deserve the very best protections that we can provide.
This is a long road to reform, but it is a road that we, the Canberra Liberals, are committed to walking together with our frontline workers, and a cause we will always support. It is worth mentioning that the actual offence of assault on a frontline community service provider was a Liberal initiative. It was first proposed in a different form, but with the same effect, by now Senator Seselja when he was Leader of the Opposition, back when I was shadow police minister, a decade ago. I took up the charge as the shadow Attorney-General, as did Mrs Jones, as the shadow minister for police and emergency services. This government finally, after years of debate, agreed. So we will continue to argue for this reform, as we have for others. Our police and our emergency services workers deserve that.
The protection is that if a person is charged with assaulting one of our frontline workers they are not, essentially, going to get bail for that attack. There is a presumption. We do not unfairly remove the right to bail in this bill; it correctly treats these offences with the seriousness they deserve. It shifts these offences away from a presumption for bail; it does not go so far as imposing a presumption against bail.
Each case would be judged on its own merits. That puts it in the same class as a range of other offences, and Mr Rattenbury has cherry-picked some. There is a list of dozens of offences. We trust our judges and magistrates and want to give them this ability when presiding over decisions where, in some cases, some very serious offences in this category would have occurred. In this matter there will be a range of assaults on frontline community providers, from some that might be quite minor and not major to some that are very serious. We trust our magistrates and our judges, and we want to make sure that they have the ability to do that without the presumption for bail.
Bail is not there for punishment. We have never argued that that is the case, but it is true that it will send a message. And it will keep our frontline services members safe. As was said in the statement from the AFPA, on three occasions when frontline workers were assaulted, they were assaulted by people on bail for that offence. I am not just making stuff up; this is about keeping people safe. We tell our frontline community service providers to go out there and put themselves in harm’s way, and by not supporting this bill we are not doing everything we can to support them and keep them out of harm’s way.
I want to send a message to our community service providers that we have their backs. And I want to send the message to perpetrators who think it is okay to go out there