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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2505 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

In those instances where witnesses to certain matters before courts need the sort of protection that the giving of evidence by closed-circuit television grants - particularly in matters involving young children and sexual abuse and offences against women, particularly sexual assaults and rape - it seems to me more than appropriate that those witnesses have available to them the opportunity of using closed-circuit television.

The sunset clause in the previous Act expired some months ago. In closing the debate, the Minister might like to address why we have been without this particular provision since June. As I say, I think the legislation is very worth while, and I would like to see it continued and assessed in due course.

MS TUCKER (5.33): The Greens will also be supporting this Bill. I believe that closed-circuit television is a very important choice that should be allowed, particularly to victims of crime. We have had it in use in the ACT in sexual assault matters since 1994. It is about giving the victims of crime a choice to avoid being excessively cross-examined, which can be a discouragement to people to take offences to trial. It does not seem to have had a negative impact on outcomes of proceedings. It is an accepted practice in a number of jurisdictions in Australia. I think it is very important, and we are happy to support it.

MR HUMPHRIES (Acting Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (5.34), in reply: Mr Speaker, I want to thank crossbenchers and the Opposition for their support for the Bill. It is an important piece of legislation to make sure that members of the community are not left unprotected when they are in the unfortunate position of needing to give evidence in trials involving, for example, sexual assault or child abuse. This legislation will ensure that the protection available to them continues.

Mr Stanhope asked why the legislation was allowed to lapse before it was renewed. I think the short answer to that question, Mr Speaker, is that we have a relatively small government body called the Department of Justice and Community Safety, divided into a number of even smaller units, each of which juggles a large number of ongoing pieces of legislation. The department is relatively small compared with other departments in the ACT, and the volume of legislation that it looks after of course is much larger than in any other department. The result is that a large number of matters are looked after by a handful of people, and it is inevitable on occasions that some matters will be overlooked. In this case no harm has been done, and I hope that we can proceed quickly to gazette the legislation and make it effective. I thank members for their support.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

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