Page 1322 - Week 04 - Thursday, 30 March 2017
protect children and other vulnerable persons in cases where poor judgement or coercion may compromise the process. This is often a recurring tension between convenience and safety.
Where the current acts seem to favour safety, the bill under debate appears to err on the side of convenience. The proposed amendments to this bill seek to establish a point of balance between these two competing desires. Madam Assistant Speaker, I commend these amendments 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) (11.13): In opening, I want to note that while the amendments are clearly well motivated, the outcome will be that they will defeat one of the purposes of the bill. The government will not be supporting the amendments, but I appreciate Mrs Kikkert’s engagement and consideration of the provisions in this important bill, because placing vulnerable people at the centre is obviously something that we share.
One of the purposes of changing legislation around amending protection orders is to make it efficient to change an order by agreement. The existing legislation, on its face, sets requirements for amending an order that in practice make changes very difficult to implement, even when everyone agrees on what the change should be. For that reason, the government will be opposing the amendments.
It is absolutely important to ensure that our legislation protects vulnerable people in the process. It is also important to remember that people who seek protection play an active role in the process and that they do and should have a say in the outcome.
Mrs Kikkert’s amendments deal with the procedure for amending a protection order by consent. This amendment deals only with the situation where an order has already been made and, at some stage after that, both the person protected and the person restrained by the order have come back to court to seek a change.
It is important to note at the outset that if two people come to court with an agreed order the court can make it without undertaking the inquiries that would be required in Mrs Kikkert’s amendment. I refer members to section 33 of the Family Violence Act and section 25 of the Personal Violence Act. There is no in-principle reason why an order should be granted initially by consent, but then the parties cannot by consent change the terms later. Part of the purpose of this bill is to facilitate a process that is flexible enough to serve the needs of people who seek orders.
It is also important to remember that, at the end of the day, a protection order comes from a civil hearing, meaning that the court relies on the parties for information. This is not the right place for an investigation of all the particulars of a case to occur. If there are indicators of risk to children, in any proceeding and at any stage, a child protection report is the right response. Magistrates and the court staff in the registry who hear these matters can and do make child protection reports. That is the appropriate mechanism for dealing with risks to children’s safety under the circumstances. If there is some indication that a person before the court is being