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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 5 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 1338 ..


MR BERRY (11.16): Mr Speaker, I present the Magistrates Court Amendment Bill 2000, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR BERRY: I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, this bill amends the Magistrates Court Act 1930 in relation to restraining orders. The bill allows employees who become aggrieved persons and apply for a restraining order under the act to do so without sacrificing their privacy.

I issued drafting instruction for this bill after I was approached by the Australian Education Union in relation to the matter. The AEU highlighted the problems which arise for teachers in our government schools who find themselves in a situation where they need to apply for a restraining order or to have a restraining order applied for in relation to events at a school-their workplace, in effect.

Teachers are apprehensive about disclosing their details when applying for an order because, for example, they may well be likely to continue teaching a person who is a relative of the person who is the subject of an order. They are also concerned, of course, about their name being made a public matter and what might flow from that. I took the view that there is a need for protection against the disclosure of anonymity for workers in the workplace and that this could, in fact, be taken up by employers. I also have concerns about disclosing their home address when they apply for an order at it may lead to them or their families becoming a potential target of the subject of an order.

I know that in many cases the orders relate to residences and so on; but teachers, according to my advice, are concerned about this matter. I take the view that no worker need take home the problems that are created in their workplace and there ought to be a straightforward protection for the most part to deal with those sorts of issues. It could be, even with this legislation, that if an employee was the only person who could give evidence in relation to a restraining order, they will need to be called for evidence. But in many cases these restraining orders could be taken out on their behalf by employers or a delegate of an employer in relation to the place of employment.

Section 198 of the Magistrates Court Act 1930 sets out a range of persons who are entitled to apply for orders. The amendment I propose today extends the list of those entitled to apply for restraining orders to include an employer of an aggrieved person. In considering the implications of the provision for teachers I became aware that there were, as I said earlier, other employees who could become an aggrieved person because of their work. This might not be only in the public sector; it could be in the private sector as well. But I give an example in the public sector of a housing officer or some other public officer who is dealing with the community. For this reason, the original intent to deal with teachers has been widened to include all employees.

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