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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 2 December 2021) . . Page.. 4049 ..

acceptable, the devastation of violence caused within the bounds of a trusting relationship is particularly heinous and causes enormous harm, not only to the victims of the violence but also to the families and friends.

Earlier this year I released an exposure draft for the Crimes (Family Violence) Legislation Amendment Bill. My bill sought to amend the Crimes Act to insert aggravating offences for offences involving domestic and family violence. It also sought to amend the Crimes (Sentencing) Act to ensure that the courts consider the factor of family violence during sentencing.

I released my bill because I believe, and I believed at the time, that our existing laws did not adequately recognise the evil and the cowardice that are family violence. Under existing laws at the time, a crime committed in a family violence context carried no additional sentencing or penalties. As such, there was a disconnect between what results from the court system and what our community expects in relation to how family violence offences are treated in the eyes of the law.

Whilst no form of violence should be tolerated in law, my bill highlighted the particularly abhorrent nature of domestic and family violence and sought to have that reflected in our laws. In doing so, my bill sought to bestow additional powers on the courts to protect the safety and wellbeing of those subjected to domestic and family violence. This, of course, prompted the Attorney-General to bring in laws to do that, which he just spoke about in his speech so very proudly.

Everyone has the right to be safe in their relationships, in their homes, in their communities, in their workplaces and online. This is why the Australian coalition government, the Liberal-National coalition government, announced on 19 October this year that those leaving a violent relationship will have access to a $5,000 escaping violence payment to help them establish a life free of violence. This important initiative will provide financial assistance to some of our most vulnerable of up to $1,500 in cash, with the remainder available for goods and services or direct payments of bonds, school fees or other support to establish a safe home.

The escaping violence payment is not considered taxable or reportable income, which means that the payment will provide more valuable financial assistance and greater financial assistance than what they would receive under the proposal of 10 days of paid leave. The escaping violence payment will ensure that Australians leaving a violent relationship are supported financially, in addition to the five days of family and domestic violence leave that the Australian Liberal-National coalition government passed in 2018.

This legislation to amend the Fair Work Act national employment standards followed the independent Fair Work Commission’s decision to grant five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave to employees covered by modern awards. The Fair Work Commission is currently reviewing the family and domestic violence leave clause in modern awards. This review should run its course and I look forward to the findings of this review. In contrast to the ACT’s paid leave proposal, the escaping violence initiative will mean that it is the Australian government, not businesses who have been hit the hardest during the pandemic, that will foot the financial burden.

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