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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (28 May) . . Page.. 696 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

This Bill is also aimed at improving the efficiency of court procedure and practice in relation to the timeframes required for the listing of an application for hearing and for the service of interim protection orders and protection orders on a respondent. The legislation, as it currently stands, requires that an application for a protection order be listed within two days of the date on which the application is filed. The legislation has been amended to allow for a more flexible timeframe, of up to 21 days, in situations where an applicant is not seeking a ex parte order and may know that the two-day period will not be sufficient for the respondent to be served with an application. This avoids the necessity for an applicant to come back to the court and apply for an extension.

A similar problem has been identified in relation to the duration allowed for interim protection orders. Under the existing legislation, an initial protection order remains in force for a period not exceeding 10 days. This Bill enables a court to grant an interim protection order for more than 10 days where the court is satisfied that it is likely that the 10-day period would not be sufficient for the respondent to be served with the initial interim order or the application for the protection order.

This Bill also seeks to improve the efficiency of court procedure and practice relating to consent orders and variations or revocation orders made by a magistrate. The Bill enables the court to make an interim protection order or vary such an order, in particular circumstances, where a respondent has not been served with an application. The Bill being mindful of the need to ensure an appropriate balance in the process for both applicants and respondents, the respondent is also able to make an application to vary the interim variation order.

A provision has been inserted in the Act to enable the court to order a party to compensate another party, if satisfied that the conduct of the party has been frivolous, vexatious or not in good faith. I believe, Mr Speaker, that the inclusion of this provision may go some way towards reassuring those who see protection order legislation as enabling an abuse of process. A new reform initiative has been inserted in the Bill to enable the court, at its discretion, to provide position directions to parties. The amendment has been introduced with a view to enabling the court to recommend that a party participate in any counselling program or training, rehabilitation or assessment specified by the court.

For the purposes of enhancing the clarity and the application of the law in domestic violence matters, this Bill reviews a number of the existing provisions of the Act. The Bill revises the scope of restrictions on publication or printing of proceedings and inserts a new provision in the Act to clarify the application of existing evidentiary procedure in domestic violence proceedings.

In addition, the Bill amends the Act to insert references to relevant procedural provisions in the Magistrates Court (Civil Jurisdiction) Act which apply to proceedings under the domestic violence legislation. The aim of these amendments is to enhance the clarity of the law by having a single legislative source of reference. The legislation has also been amended with a view to improving the overall language used in the Act and improving the layout of the Act.

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