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Member of Parliament Testifies to Mother's Abuse of Father (from Hansard, 16-18 December 2008)

by David Garrett (ACT)

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I rise to speak on the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill, and I am very pleased to speak on this bill as my first duty since I gave my maiden speech last night. In that speech I said we needed a revolution to repair our broken justice system. I wish to put on record on behalf of both the ACT Party and me personally that any perception coming from abroad that we think society’s violence problem is confined to the streets is completely wrong. Yes, as a country we have become much more violent on the street, and, yes, aggravated robberies, beatings, and homicides have increased on the street, but a great deal of the violence problem comes from the home.

I wish I could wholeheartedly agree with the previous speaker from the Greens, but I need to point out that a couple of things Ms Kedgley said were not correct. Firstly, it is not 50 percent but 39 percent of homicides that occur in the home. Secondly, until the very last couple of minutes of her speech, Ms Kedgley referred exclusively to “the woman” and “her children”. Sadly, the problem is not exclusively limited to women. The figures in front of me show that one in four women and one in five men will be a victim of domestic violence. The domestic violence I witnessed as a child was perpetrated exclusively by my mother. My sad, wimpy father took it and never retaliated, and of course in those days he did not call the police, either. I think it is quite important to realise and acknowledge that this problem is not limited exclusively to men on women. Men suffer from it as well. I was also interested to hear references from members opposite to psychological violence, and I think that is something that certainly should properly be raised at the select committee.

I looked at new Part 6A, and I thought that it had a great deal of merit and that a great deal of thought had clearly been put into it. Of course, the primary purpose of this bill is to allow police to issue on-the-spot protection orders. I think that is a very good thing, perhaps for reasons that are somewhat different from those given by members opposite. As a lawyer, albeit not one practising in family law, I am aware, as every other lawyer in this House will be, that there are cases where protection orders are issued on the basis of affidavits that are, to put it mildly, embroidered somewhat with the assistance of lawyers. I think it was Ms Pillay who made the point very well, and I agree with her, that a police officer who is on the spot is better able to judge what has gone on than a court can 5 days later. I say that for reasons that are somewhat different from Ms Pillay’s. The court hears an affidavit and sees both parties on their best behaviour. The police officer, on the other hand, is there on the spot seeing broken furniture and a split lip, and although I am not naive enough to think the police always get it right, I would say that perhaps they might get it right more often in those particular instances.

However, I noted a couple of things about the provisions on police orders. In particular, one was the proposed provision precluding police from issuing orders against a child. I wonder why that provision is there. Members may think I am being a little facetious when I point out that children of 16 can be 6-foot tall. Some of my Tongan relatives of 16 are considerably bigger than me, and I am talking only about the female ones. I think that is something that could be looked at, as well. One hears of children terrorising their parents, and I wonder whether that is an area that could be looked at by the select committee.

As I have said, I agree with the Hon Lianne Dalziel that police are often better placed to judge circumstances, but I also point out—and again, I think this is something that should be canvassed before the select committee—that in my local area alone I am aware of two instances involving male acquaintances, not friends, where allegations were made against them and were accepted without any evidence, at all. Both of those men spent a couple of days in jail, as both incidents happened to occur on a Friday. I think the standard of proof and evidence required in such cases needs to be looked at more closely as well, both for police orders and for protection orders generally. I am not saying for a moment that I would wish to reduce or blunt the protection offered to women, but it is not a one-sided picture, as the figure of one in four for women and one in five for men that I mentioned earlier bears out. Having said all of that, the ACT Party and I personally are very happy to support this bill.

 

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