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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 3822 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

How well does the court use conflict resolution processes to assist people to resolve their disputes? It is important that restraining orders are not used for the resolution of disputes; that they are understood to be a means of protecting people from harm. But while a range of disputes are being brought to the courts, it would be very useful, it would build social capital, in fact, if the court would refer more of the appropriate cases to conflict resolution. Of course, I am not talking about referring domestic violence perpetrators to conflict resolution as a first step.

There is a section, 206F, allowing the courts to recommend attending counselling etc, but I understand it is not commonly used. In this bill, however, there is no mention of counselling or conflict resolution. That provision would be lost from this legislation. The regulation-making power seems to cover it, but how do we make it clear that it is important?

The new section on workplace protection orders aims to fix a problem with the current arrangement. Again, however, it is not clear that it will not create a new set of problems. Despite the clause saying that it does not create any new obligations for employers, would an employer be somehow liable if they did not take out a workplace protection order for an employee and then the employee was adversely affected?

I had concerns about the fate of someone banned, for instance, from the ACT Housing assistance office. People who are at their wit's end are sometimes verbally abusive. That is difficult to be around; however, it is part of the situation in service and welfare provision. So how sensitive would an employer be? Would the clause covering the requirement to consider hardship be enough?

In short, these are matters to be resolved. I can see that the law is easier to understand, and that is good, but there are serious questions about what is being done to domestic violence legislation. There is a lot to work through here, and we cannot have confidence that all the necessary matters have been weighed up. Let's take the time to get it right. Wait until next year and for the model domestic violence laws report. Resource the Domestic Violence Prevention Council. Do a substantive review of the processes.

Yesterday in this place the government that now is wanting to push this through was arguing that we could not possibly do Mr Rugendyke's fair trading legislation because of a national process. There is not a great deal of consistency here.

It is great that the government has done this last minute consultation. If there were not the numbers to see sense and do it right, that would be a stop-gap measure; but let's see if we can complete the work that has been started instead of rushing in and setting up problematic laws.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (7.40): Mr Speaker, the Attorney-General introduced these bills on 15 June 2001. The scrutiny of bills committee, I think surprisingly, made no comment on the bills, particularly the Protection Orders Bill, which has two extremely wide regulation-making powers. I noted that in his presentation speech the Attorney said that the Protection Orders Bill is the end product of an extensive technical review of the current legislation.

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