Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 8 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2133 ..
Debate resumed from 27 March 1996, on motion by Ms Follett:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill 1996? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of the day No. 1 they may also address their remarks to order of the day No. 2.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (10.54): Mr Speaker, the Government is strongly supportive of provisions to be included in ACT legislation to deal with stalking. The Government has, through officers of my department, been working as members of the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee, MCCOC, to develop a stalking provision which would be uniform across all States and Territories. The need for and advantages of uniformity are obviously clear. People travel interstate and great distances to pursue and to flee from another. In these very unfortunate circumstances, the implementation of uniform legislation will ensure consistent criminal response across Australia to this distinct antisocial behaviour known generally as stalking. The officers developing the uniform provisions prepared the provisions in their own States or Territories where they exist - I think in most cases they do exist - and came up with what they believed to be the best balance between two very important principles. They are, on the one hand, the rights of people to feel safe from those who may want to intimidate them or do worse; and, on the other hand, the important criminal law principle that a person must intend to do the act which is the offence and the act must amount to more than trivial conduct or conduct that has no malicious intention.
While MCCOC was developing its non-fatal offences chapter in which the stalking provision lies, the ACT Community Law Reform Committee, in December, reported on a reference which it received in 1991 on domestic violence. The report included a recommendation for a stalking offence. The Bill, as tabled, is based on recommendations made by that committee. The question of uniformity, however, was not discussed in that report. This will be one of the issues to be raised by the Government in its forthcoming response to the report which I hope to be able to table soon. Nevertheless, it is both desirable and appropriate that the recommendations of the ACT Community Law Reform Committee be considered against the application of a model Criminal Code. It is very difficult to frame a satisfactory stalking offence - there is no doubt about that - which will maintain that balance which I have referred to already and which does not catch within it persons and conduct which were not intended to be caught. For those reasons, I will support Ms Follett's Bill. I support the belief that there ought to be anti-stalking legislation in the ACT, but I believe it does need to be amended to move it as close as possible to the work that is being done at the national level to create uniformity in anti-stalking legislation.