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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 8 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 2666 ..


Debate resumed from 10 May 2000, on motion by Mr Berry:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (4.10): The government has concerns about this bill of Mr Berry's in that it is meant to provide some protections to teachers in schools in the ACT who may feel the need-

Mr Berry: All workers.

MR HUMPHRIES: All right, all workers in schools in the ACT.

Mr Berry: And outside.

MR HUMPHRIES: You say outside. I am not quite sure how that occurs. Mr Berry, in his presentation speech, made particular reference to schools and teachers. He can explain to me afterwards how his bill affects people outside schools, but I understand that the main purpose of this bill is to provide protection to people in ACT schools.

The purpose of the bill is to permit an employer to make an application for a restraining order under part X of the Magistrates Court Act on behalf of an employee. Mr Berry indicated that the amendments were proposed primarily to address concerns raised by teachers about threats of violence and damage in ACT schools. The amendments of course apply-and I think this is Mr Berry's point-to any employee, whether in the public or private sector.

In recent days the government has been looking at the operation of restraining orders and protection orders under ACT legislation. There has been a series of Supreme Court cases dealing with restraining orders which reveal a number of technical difficulties with the operation of current provisions, and they indicate that a general review of restraining orders is needed in the ACT. That in now under way.

It has become apparent in the discussions about the way in which Mr Berry's amendments are brought forward and would seem to operate that restraining orders under part X of the Magistrates Court Act 1930 are not well adapted to deal with the problems confronting schools at the moment. Restraining orders are used to prevent a person from acting against the person or property of another person, known as the aggrieved person. There must be an aggrieved person for a restraining order to be issued.

It appears that in some cases involving threats of violence in a school context, however, that the threat is generalised. There are instances, for example, where a threat has been made against a specific person but that person has been unwilling to be the aggrieved person for a restraining order application. The lack of a specific target for the threatened violence in some cases and the unwillingness of some threatened people to be the aggrieved person in other cases make the use of restraining orders problematic in a number of cases involving schools.

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