Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 28 March 2017) . . Page.. 1131 ..
introducing new provisions that will enable police officers of or above the rank of sergeant to witness affidavits, to introduce greater flexibility regarding the collection of admissible evidence; and creating clear procedures for the recognition of foreign orders.
Mr Assistant Speaker, family and personal violence can be a traumatic and painful experience for all involved. This bill will allow ACT courts to respond to family and personal violence with more flexibility, making space for understanding and compassion in these proceedings. I commend this bill to the Assembly.
MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for Regulatory Services, Minister for the Arts and Community Events and Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (12.06): I start by expressing my appreciation to the members who have spoken already, noting their support for this bill, for these particularly important provisions in this area of law. I also note the report of the scrutiny committee on this bill and appreciate the work of the committee that went into looking at this bill. The committee did raise a matter in relation to section 21 and the right to a fair trial; in response to those comments, I am tabling a revised explanatory statement.
The Family and Personal Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 will further strengthen the ACT government’s response to family and personal violence in the territory. This bill will build on all of the work that has been done to date, with a focus on improving the court processes.
The full package of amendments we are considering today will help ensure that vulnerable people and their needs are the focus in our courts. They will improve legislation for protection orders and how people who need protection go through the process, they will give special attention to people with disabilities and children, and they will improve the overall ability of the courts to manage the process.
I know that Mrs Kikkert has foreshadowed amendments that we will be considering at a later time. I can assure the Assembly that, in developing the bill, the government has consulted particularly closely with courts and with the legal profession about protection orders. I am sure that Mrs Kikkert’s amendments are well intentioned, and I would be keen to know further details regarding her community consultations. The real-world effect of the changes is, of course, what matters most, so the government will be looking to the groups who have helped develop this bill in framing a response to those amendments.
Justice is only true justice when it is accessible, transparent and timely. An accessible and transparent process is crucial for people who come to court seeking protection from domestic and family violence. Each step, each procedure, needs to be focused on the safety and wellbeing of those people. A key measure of our laws and procedures is how they affect the most vulnerable people in our community.
We know that domestic violence is a crime that is under-reported. And for a range of reasons, victims may be reluctant to proceed with the court process even when it is reported. Every procedural barrier is one more obstacle to ensuring that the court system is effective in protecting vulnerable people. Improved legislation makes it