Thursday 25 November 2004

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, there is no justification for violence of any kind in our society, especially against those who are vulnerable in domestic situations. There is also no justification for offences of economic abuse, emotional abuse or intimidation of any kind in a domestic situation, and these problems must be tackled. They must be tackled by changing those outdated community attitudes towards domestic violence. They must also be tackled through the public education system through programs that start in our schoolrooms. As a final resort they must be tackled here through legislation through the justice system and then through penalties.

There is a pressing need for this Family Violence Bill 2004. But is this bill as it stands the right one to address the problems that I have just mentioned? And why has there been so much criticism of some of its provisions?

Domestic violence is an emotive issue, and let us not repeat here the arguments of another place. This Family Violence Bill 2004 has been criticised by a former premier. The Tasmanian Law Society is worried that some provisions might be unacceptable, draconian and a breach of civil rights. The President of the Law Society said he was concerned that tougher bail criteria could lead to a bottleneck in the remand system and alleged offenders could wait months in jail until their case was heard. He said greater police powers in entering premises without a warrant could lead to vexatious claims of abuse. He also had concerns that the mandatory reporting of abuse by professionals could breach Federal privacy laws.

The Director of Public Prosecutions said aspects of the proposed bill were a wholesale abandonment of human rights and a distortion of the criminal justice system. I shall summarise some legal reservations about parts of the bill that have been put to me.

Section 79(a)(ii) raises the questions: what is coercion? What constitutes verbal abuse? Simple swearing could be verbal abuse.

In section 8 will it be an offence for a person not to consult with their spouse or partner over the management of the household budget? Who will fund the spouse or partner who seeks to prosecute under this section? In sections 10 and 11, any police officer, no matter how low in rank, can forcibly enter a home, perhaps after hearing a low-key domestic argument, and that would be a neat way for a police officer to collect evidence about a separate offence without obtaining a search warrant. There is no limit also to the time that a police officer may remain on the premises.
Section 12 is seen as reversing the onus of proof, and a step towards an authoritarian State. Section 13 is seen as a veiled attempt to limit the discretion of a court in determining an appropriate sentence. In Part 3, although the Attorney-General says most of the provisions in a police family violence order are similar to a restraint order, she overlooks the vast difference in that a restraint order is issued by a magistrate, whereas a PFVO is issued by a police officer. So there is, Mr President - I am hoping that the Deputy Leader in charge of the bill will address some of those concerns - too much concern about parts of this bill for it to pass through this House without intensive scrutiny, however I do support the family Violence Bill 2004.