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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (22 September) . . Page.. 1982 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

Through the next three years members should expect that we will revisit the issue of domestic violence on a number of occasions. The reason we should expect this is that all the time we should be testing the waters to see whether we have got this right. It is such a difficult issue and such a sensitive issue that we should proceed carefully and slowly, assessing how changes take effect.

Mr Speaker, I congratulate Mr Humphries for bringing this group of laws into place. I believe that these Bills will enhance the ability of our citizens to live in an appropriate way. I think it is also appropriate to congratulate the Community Law Reform Committee on the work it has done in this area. It is on that work that this piece of legislation is based.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.14): Mr Speaker, as I have previously indicated to the Attorney, the Opposition will be supporting this suite of legislation. It is sometimes difficult to get the right balance between the rights of a respondent and an applicant in relation to the very difficult issue of violence and/or apprehended violence or the relationship between men and women or between other members of the community.

I will briefly mention the representations which I think each member of the Assembly has received from the Lone Fathers Association, which has made its views on the legislation known. I do not necessarily endorse the representations made by the Lone Fathers Association but I respect the fact that they do have a view. The scrutiny of Bills committee commented that meeting an appropriate balance between the rights of an applicant for an order under this legislation and those of a respondent does on occasions involve a fine judgment. In that respect I think it important that, in passing this legislation, we are mindful of the need to keep under review the effectiveness and operation of legislation in this area.

I have also consulted widely with other groups within the community, such as the Women's Legal Centre, the ALP status of women policy committee, groups which endorse this legislation and believe it fully appropriate, necessary and deserving of the full support of the Assembly. It is in that context that the ALP is pleased to support the legislation and to acknowledge the needs of those within the community who face violence, who face intimidation or who are threatened in their capacity to lead lives free of the prospect of violence, intimidation or threat. It is the absolute right of everybody within the community to be free at all times from violence, an apprehension of violence or a fear of violence. So many people, and regretfully so many women, live with a constant fear of violence, a fear which inhibits their quality of life and then impacts on the lives of so many young people.

Violence at all levels, not violence just within domestic relationships, is a scourge. Violence is never acceptable, should never be condoned, should never be explained away. This legislation sends an absolute message that this community does not accept the legitimacy of violence in any relationship, whether it is a relationship between a cohabiting man and woman, a relationship between parents and children, a relationship between individuals of the same gender or a relationship between children at school.

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