Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (22 September) . . Page.. 1985 ..
MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):
To have to walk into the privacy of someone else's home to avert a volatile situation is extremely awkward. In the perfect world we would be able to settle our private affairs in private, but in cases like these we have people in danger and there is no choice but to intervene.
It is vital to protect those under threat and to put in place every possible measure to ensure that violence will not be repeated. The scars that these situations can leave behind are sad to see. Anything that can be done to bring about a swift intervention is going to be not only beneficial for the short term but also beneficial in addressing the long-term emotional scars that these types of incidents can cause, particularly in children.
On many occasions, in my experience, the wording of the domestic violence legislation has been a barrier to police in applying the law in practice. I have been in the situation where the barriers have impeded a satisfactory resolution. It is not a pleasant feeling having to walk away from the scene of a domestic violence incident knowing that more could have been done to protect someone who was in a threatening environment. It is pleasing to consider a Bill that rectifies this situation by outlining a clear definition of what a domestic violence offence is. I have heard the arguments, those expressed by the Lone Fathers Association in particular, that this Bill is too broad. I disagree with this view, although I understand their point. I am satisfied that there are measures within the Bill to ensure that it is not abused.
I applaud the provision that enables the court to order compensation to a party if satisfied that the conduct of an applicant has been frivolous, vexatious or not in good faith. From my experience in the field, it becomes quickly evident to police officers when a complaint is frivolous. A sixth sense enables police officers to read these situations and to judge what is a dangerous situation and what is a furphy. Giving the court the power to order compensation is a reasonable backup that provides fair protection for all parties. This is a safeguard which is also a deterrent to lodging frivolous complaints.
Domestic violence is a problem in our community. It is an everyday occurrence, and we need the best possible means to ensure that families are protected, especially our children. Anything we can do to ensure that suffering is not prolonged must be supported, and that is why I will be supporting this Bill, Mr Speaker.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.32), in reply: Mr Speaker, I am very gratified to have the support of so many members of this chamber for the legislation which is before us today. It may appear on its face to be in some ways a mechanical set of Bills, technical rather than changing the substantive delivery of domestic violence protection. Some of the provisions could succumb to that definition, but other provisions in this package are quite important. They reflect the very considerable and longstanding work of the Community Law Reform Committee and are important if we are to make sure that our domestic violence laws in this Territory remain effective, ready to offer assistance to any person who may need them at any time, and keep the ACT in the vanguard of such legislative protection in this country.