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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (22 September) . . Page.. 1981 ..




Debate resumed from 28 May 1998, on motion by Mr Humphries:

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 Magistrates Court (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1998, the Bail (Amendment) Bill 1998 and the Protection Orders (Reciprocal Arrangements) (Amendment) Bill 1998? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of the day No. 4 they may also address their remarks to orders of the day Nos 5, 6 and 7.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.09): Mr Speaker, these pieces of legislation are about ensuring that we deal in an appropriate way with domestic violence. The definition of domestic violence that has been inserted into this legislation will ensure that the range of conduct covered by domestic violence is clear and understood. We often have the opportunity to deal with the issue of domestic violence in this Assembly. When we deal with domestic violence, we invariably feel that we are infringing on some of the civil liberties of those involved. The issue of domestic violence is always so difficult. I am sure that, as former police officers who have had to deal with domestic violence, Mr Osborne and Mr Rugendyke understand how difficult it often is to make a judgment about the issues in front of you.

In making that judgment in the past, I have always believed that we have to tip the balance in favour of those who are most vulnerable. Invariably, that is the women and children involved. Sometimes, perhaps in one per cent or 2 per cent, even 3 per cent, of cases the balance should go the other way, but I have yet to come across anybody who can explain to me a way we can deal with domestic violence when the victim is a man. The laws are set up so that we should be able to, but if there is a weakness in our laws that is where the weakness is. We should recognise that, but at the same time I think we have to opt for domestic violence legislation that favours women and children.

This package of legislation we are dealing with broadens the scope of restrictions and prohibitions that can be imposed by the courts. Each step we take down this path is a step that flies in the face of what much of our legislative systems were based on in past centuries, that is, on a notion of property. Every time we move to broaden our domestic violence legislation we challenge that notion. We look more at relationships, evening up the balance of power and making sure that people do not see ownership as applying to domestic relations. Mr Speaker, these are difficult issues. It is always difficult to get the balance exactly right, on the one hand protecting women and children in our society but on the other hand ensuring that we also protect the civil liberties of all those involved.

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