Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 26 August 2008) . . Page.. 3707 ..
elderly people have become victims of domestic violence. I have heard the Deputy Chief Minister previously cite this as an area of concern in our community, and I was particularly pleased to see this addressed in the legislation. The additional protection that this bill extends to elderly people is needed; I particularly support this inclusion.
It is important to note that, as the percentage of elderly people in the community increases and as places in aged care accommodation become scarcer as supply struggles to keep pace with demand, more and more people are going to be living with family as they age. This has the potential to present unique pressures and stresses on everybody. It is appropriate that this bill extends existing law to protect people who are amongst the most vulnerable in our community. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that, as the situation of people ageing in place or being cared for by relatives becomes increasingly common, which it will, we must have legal recourses enshrined to ensure that one of the most heinous of crimes is covered by legislation. It should also be noted that protection extends to the pets of these people, since violence against a pet is included in the definition of domestic violence under the act.
It should not be thought that people outside the scope of the bill are left without any protection against domestic violence. In these cases, the ordinary laws of assault and other violent crimes apply. The purpose of the Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Bill is merely to create an additional legal mechanism for the prevention of violence that is tailor made for situations involving domestic violence where different dynamics apply.
I will take this opportunity to speak on one aspect of the present bill that does trouble me just a little, and that is the definition of domestic violence and personal violence in clauses 13 and 14 of the bill. What troubles me about these definitions is that they define violence as including behaviour that is merely offensive to the relevant person. I find this to be a bit of a stretch; I think that it is untenable to claim that anything offensive constitutes genuine domestic violence.
I mention this because there has been some criticism of domestic violence laws and domestic violence statistics for failing to distinguish between genuine violence and other things that are merely deemed to be violence under the law. I note that this is already the situation in the current act; the bill before us makes no change to this situation. Whilst this could have been an opportunity to draw a clearer distinction between violent and non-violent conduct, the bill does not make the current situation any worse; therefore, I am not going to dwell on this apparent deficiency in the bill.
I will be supporting this bill for its extensions to the scope of people afforded protection. It is sensible and, as I have mentioned in my remarks, welcome because it will extend legal protection to people in society who are in a position of potential vulnerability.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.01): We have moved an awfully long way in dealing with domestic violence over the last three or four decades. I can remember—how could one forget?—being in the situation where a gun was being held to my mother-in-law at the time by a family member. When we called the police, the police did not come because it was seen as a domestic situation.