Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 5 April 2011) . . Page.. 1322 ..
counselling notes of a sexual offence victim in civil proceedings. The ACT currently provides an immunity model for these types of records in criminal proceedings. There appears to be no compelling reason why the protections afforded in criminal proceedings should not be extended to civil proceedings. The public interest in encouraging victims of sexual assault to seek counselling exists in both the civil and the criminal sphere. Indeed, legislation in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria provides protection in civil and criminal proceedings. Further bills will be introduced to repeal redundant legislation and otherwise update, consolidate and reorganise the territory’s evidence law.
The government will also introduce further legislation into the Assembly to implement parts of the uniform evidence law which have not been adopted by the commonwealth and therefore do not currently form part of the ACT law.
As I explained at introduction, the bill does not replicate division 1A of the uniform law which provides for a professional confidential relationship privilege. The commonwealth adopted the privilege but limited its application to journalists only.
As a strong supporter of uniformity in evidence laws, the government proposes to adopt the broader model privilege and include it in a forthcoming evidence bill. Adopting the broader privilege will expand the operation of the existing privilege to include confidences imparted not only to journalists but also to other relationships where confidentiality is a vital element. This could include doctors and other health professionals as well as other professions such as social workers.
Amendments to the model evidence law which were endorsed by attorneys-general in 2010 will also be included in a forthcoming evidence bill. The reforms include issues which were not considered in detail in the first round of amendments as they required further consultation and would have delayed the first set of reforms.
It is proposed that amendments will be made to expand the circumstances in which a person is taken not to be available to give evidence. A person will be taken to be unavailable if the person is mentally or physically unable to give the evidence and it is not reasonably practical to overcome the inability.
Amendments will also provide for mutual recognition of self-incrimination certificates issued in other jurisdictions and will clarify the operation of the broader professional confidential relationship privilege in relation to journalists.
Finally, the entire ACT statute book will be reviewed and amendments to update, consolidate, reorganise and discard redundant provisions will also be included in further government legislation.
The bill for passage today is the first step in a significant process of evidence reform in the territory. Not only is it a move towards ceasing the operation of commonwealth law in the territory; it marks for the first time that the ACT will have its own stand-alone Evidence Act. For the first time since self-government the territory will act and exercise its right to establish an evidence regime in the territory, thereby