Territory Stories

Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007



Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007

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Parliamentary Record 17


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4850 regarding mandatory reporting of domestic violence. Further work and consideration will be undertaken and a decision made in the new year. The reforms outlined in this bill could not wait, and so they go ahead independent of that outstanding question. These reforms are required immediately. We could not leave them on the shelf while we worked through the complex issues mandatory reporting raises. On this point, I wish to bring members attention to the provision dealing with health practitioners who do report suspicion to police. Under this bill, these practitioners will be protected from any civil or criminal liability in relation to such a report. The duty of confidentiality is not absolute. Health practitioners may feel compelled to report serious instances of domestic violence if they believe that there is a serious risk of domestic violence to the patient or another person. They may do so where they believe a report is necessary to act in the best interests of their patient. We recognise that health practitioners do not take these things lightly. Many health practitioners consider it a breach of their ethical obligations to their patient. Nevertheless, disclosure of information concerning their patients experience of domestic violence in these circumstances is not inconsistent with the doctors ethical obligation according to the Australian Medical Association, and government must provide legal protection for health professionals who determine they must provide information to the police. The bill does contain amendments to other legislation, including the Justices Act. Amendments to this act will allow those who experience violence in a relationship but do not live with the perpetrator to seek a new type of civil remedy called a Personal Violence Restraining Order. The primary purpose of this order will be to secure the safety of the victim, with the grounds for the order being a finding on the balance of probabilities that the defendant committed a personal violence offence that caused harm to the victim as defined in the Criminal Code. These provisions replace section 99 of the Justices Act, which stakeholders explained during consultation were inadequate to the task and provided limited protection of victims because they were not enforceable by police. This new mechanism will allow the Magistrates Court to refer a matter to compulsory mediation before the court is required to determine an application, unless the matter is of such a significant nature that the court is obliged to hear the matter immediately. The amendment will also allow police to make an application on behalf of children in circumstances where, for example, they believe a child has been or is being sexually assaulted by a perpetrator who is not in a domestic relationship with that child. Police will be able to act immediately to protect that child while they complete their investigation. In these circumstances, it will be a useful complementary measure to criminal proceedings. Madam Speaker, in closing, the legislation will be a strong tool to protect victims of domestic violence from further abuse. We have deliberately shifted the presumption in favour of protecting the rights of those often powerless parties who are experiencing violence. The government also realises that to achieve long-term, sustainable and intergenerational change, we have to look at changing the behaviour of those perpetrating the violence. This bill achieves both fundamental goals. I commend the bill to honourable members, and I table a copy of the explanatory statement. Debate adjourned. DISASTERS AMENDMENT BILL (Serial 115) Continued from 30 August 2007. Ms CARNEY (Opposition Leader): Madam Speaker, I will brief. I should indicate that the member for Nelson has asked me to raise an issue. I do not believe it requires going into committee but, perhaps in your reply, Chief Minister, if you would respond to it, I thank you. The opposition supports the bill which, in essence, does two things. First, it enables Emergency Services personnel to order people to clean up their blocks when a Cyclone Watch has been issued, rather than a Cyclone Warning. This means that Emergency Services personnel will have more time to make these orders before a cyclone comes. This stands to reason, considering the near miss that Monica represented last year. Second, it updates the penalty provisions for the Disasters Act for people and corporations who offend against the powers of officers authorised by the act. We support the bill because they are commonsense amendments and, accordingly, for very obvious reasons. On behalf of the opposition, not much else needs to be said. On behalf of the member for Nelson, I raise what is a good point. I did not have time to look at it, but he has asked: why has there been such a significant increase of the penalty? In the original Disasters Act, based on the material I have in front of me, an offence penalty was $5000. Now it has gone up to $550 000