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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3289 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) (Amendment) Bill is a very important piece of legislation. The Labor Party and I have some sympathy for most aspects of the Bill. I respect much of the Minister's state of motivation in seeking to review and reform the way in which victims of crime are dealt with in the ACT. My reason for seeking to refer the Bill to a committee is motivated by two primary factors. The first is that, in relation to a matter of this significance and in the development of good law around this issue, I think we must be directed by good policy.

I, and I think, every other member of the Assembly have received some fairly significant representations and lobbying from a range of individuals and organisations potentially affected by the legislation. Many of the representations that we have received raise quite serious policy issues. It is to our advantage as an Assembly to have an opportunity to review some of those significant policy questions. They go to issues such as the scope and appropriateness of supporting victims of crime through this legislation; questions about whether or not we should be looking to workers compensation and insurance as sources for compensation; questions about whether or not financial assistance through victims of crime legislation reduces the pressure on employers to provide for the safety of staff; the most appropriate form of compensation; and - this is, perhaps the crux of much of the debate that has been going on - should compensation of victims be by way of prescribed or court determined lump sum payments? Should it be provided through referral to counselling and other support services? What choice, if any, should the victim have in deciding on the counselling to be used? Should we create a victim support agency? What is the most cost-effective way of delivering compensation to victims?

These are the range of questions that have been raised with me and, I am sure, with other members. I have had a number of very constructive discussions with VOCAL. I have welcomed the opportunity to talk through the range of issues. I am aware that VOCAL is generally very supportive of this legislation. Conversely, others have indicated to me quite strong opposition to the Bill. These others include representatives of the legal profession and the police association which, as everybody knows, represents a significant proportion of claimants. They have quite serious concerns about the Bill.

I have also received representations from individuals who have been victims, including shopkeepers that have been robbed and people that have been seriously assaulted, all of whom have serious concerns about the philosophy underlying the Bill. I think almost everybody that I have spoken to in relation to the legislation has quite direct concerns about the retrospectivity proposed by the Minister in relation to the issue. We need to consider carefully all these issues and we need to get the policy right. Reference to an Assembly committee, the Justice Committee, is an appropriate thing to do.

I think this proposal is an ideal example of those matters that should be given the opportunity of being aired through the committee process. It also overcomes the problem - and I have heard the Attorney speaking on this - of the lack of time which members have to consider legislation. I am aware of the very good discussion paper that was prepared by the working party. I am aware of the broad representation of community organisations on the working party and that, to some extent, the basic philosophy underlying the Minister's proposals has been on the table.

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