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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (27 March) . . Page.. 674 ..


MS FOLLETT (10.33): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to deal with notices Nos 1 and 2 together.

Leave granted.

MS FOLLETT: Mr Speaker, I present the Crimes (Amendment) Bill 1996 and the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 1996.

Titles read by Clerk.


That these Bills be agreed to in principle.

The effect of these two Bills - the amendment to the Crimes Act and the amendment to the Domestic Violence Act - will be to create a new criminal offence in the Territory, that of stalking. I would like to say at the outset that, in seeking to introduce a new piece of legislation, I am very much aware that what we are dealing with here is the symptoms of the disease rather than the disease itself. The disease I speak of, of course, is violence in our community. It seems to me that until and unless we find a suitable and effective means of reducing violence in our community we must inevitably continue to deal with those symptoms, as we have done over the years, by creating laws that punish people for violence.

In relation to the issue of domestic violence, I have spoken many times in this place and elsewhere on the need for the crime of domestic violence to be taken seriously. I still believe that the crime of domestic violence is not taken seriously enough by our community, by our police and by our judiciary, and I am very sorry indeed that we continue to see the effects of that failure to take domestic violence seriously. We see the effects in the continued suffering of the predominantly women and children who are victims of domestic violence. We have all too often seen, as a result of a failure to take the crime seriously, the death of women particularly. It seems to me that we have a very long way to go in our own community, throughout Australia, throughout the world, before we can truly say that there is equality before the law. I have said before and I will say again that if there were 74 deaths as a result of, say, some sporting activity or some other form of activity there would be a national outcry. There are 74 deaths a year in Australia as a result of domestic violence, yet we continue to see the issue dealt with less seriously than are other criminal offences. We continue to see women and children put at grave risk.

The issue of stalking is one that has been dealt with very comprehensively by the Community Law Reform Committee of the ACT in their Report No. 9, where they have reviewed all of the domestic violence legislation and its implementation in the ACT.

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