Page 1156 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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Family Law Act will be able to point to examples where one spouse has taken out a domestic violence order against another spouse which has then been used against that spouse in custody battles. I think that we should be setting the bar a little higher than we currently are. The Liberal opposition has resolved that it will be reviewing this provision and others with a view to introducing legislation which will try to rebalance the rights of people on both sides to ensure that this important piece of legislation, this important protective mechanism, is not used mischievously, is not misused.

I note, Mr Speaker, that in this legislation there are no penalties for misuse of the act. There are quite high penalties for people who breach domestic violence orders, and there should be. The domestic violence order process could be used to stymie someone in another area—someone who is attempting to join the police force, for instance. A vengeful partner may take out a domestic violence order which would stop them from doing so. You could stymie someone’s career very easily in a whole lot of areas where people work in public safety or work with children by the simple application of this act. While people who are subject to domestic violence must have protection, the general community must be protected from the misuse of the legislation. I would like to see in the future that there are penalties similar to the penalties for breaching orders for those who misuse the provisions of the act.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.04): Mr Speaker, this bill is the second attempt at bringing up to date with contemporary concerns the legislation that covers protection and domestic violence orders. I know that the government and its staff would like to feel confident that they have done the right thing, but it is worth going over the point that protection orders and domestic violence orders are different things and those people who do their work dealing with and supporting people on the receiving end of domestic and family violence are fairly united in their wish to see the legislation separated. I note that Tasmania and Western Australia are heading towards separate acts, with those qualifications. It is about recognition of the seriousness of the injury or the circumstances.

I think it is interesting that the whole notion of victims of crime compensation came unstuck around the issue of victims of domestic violence. The special deal of Liberal Attorney-General Gary Humphries with the independent MLAs paid special regard to victims of sexual assault and police officers but not to victims of domestic violence, despite the many arguments put. When the Labor government tried last year to remove those provisions as a step towards equity, the issue of restitution and acknowledgment for those who suffer from domestic violence as well as victims of sexual assault was raised once again.

I think that there are particular issues to do with the institutionalised brutality of domestic violence and our society’s incapacity or unpreparedness to acknowledge its impact and pervasiveness. In that context, then, I think it is understandable that people concerned with domestic violence and the law argue the need for separate legislation. Domestic violence is a criminal matter, whereas protection orders are mostly a matter of neighbourhood or workplace disputes in civil jurisdictions. I think that this is something that we need to watch, but I concede that we are not going to see the legislation recast so fundamentally at this stage.

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