Resumed from 17 August.
[speeches and comments of various members]
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [8.58 pm]: I rise on behalf of the Greens to indicate that we will also be supporting the Domestic Violence Orders (National Recognition) Bill 2017. The bill before us seeks to establish a National Domestic Violence Order Scheme and we welcome this next step in improving the situation for victims of family and domestic violence in Australia, no matter in which jurisdiction they choose to reside. Currently, if a person takes out a restraining order in WA and moves to another jurisdiction, they have to take out another order at their new jurisdiction. Applying for an order can be quite a traumatic experience and having to repeat the process is not just a matter of convenience; it can also be extremely upsetting and may involve recounting incredibly distressing details. By establishing a National Domestic Violence Order Scheme, we will eliminate the need for domestic violence orders to be registered across Australian jurisdictional boundaries. This is a really important way to ensure that we are providing seamless legal protection to victims of family and domestic violence who choose or need to move interstate. People may leave their home as a result of domestic violence, and these protections will help to support their efforts to establish a new safe home. We know that far too often, regrettably, some perpetrators will follow their victims and seek to continue the violence. This legislation is, therefore, very important to help mitigate that. It is a cross-recognition scheme with domestic violence orders being upheld by police and courts in every other Australian state or territory. Existing powers of police to issue an order, despite an order already being in existence, will be upheld. I note that in this particular provision, the Domestic Violence Orders (National Recognition) Bill deviates from the model law framework. That is particularly important in WA where situations in rural and remote areas might hamper timely access to information about possible existing orders. This provision will therefore ensure that protection of a victim is maintained. Bear in mind that we are talking about legitimate concerns about safety. I remind members that a woman in Australia is more likely to be killed in her own home than anywhere else and more likely to be killed by her male partner than by anyone else. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. In Australia, on average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner. I note that domestic violence deaths are ultimately preventable and that a national recognition scheme applies only to family violence restraining orders. Family Court orders will not be included in the regime and I understand that the Council of Australian Governments working group is looking at including Family Court orders by 2019, as the system progresses. It is important to have national recognition across other types of orders and I look forward to other orders being included as soon as practicable.
The scheme will apply only to orders made on or after the scheme commences. Assuming this bill is passed, orders obtained after 25 November will go onto the register automatically and I understand a person can apply to have their old order declared under the national scheme. I would like to know how people with existing orders that will not automatically come under the scheme will be advised that they can apply for this to occur. For example, if a person in WA obtained a violence protection order in September and decided to move to Adelaide, how will they be advised that they can make an application that their order be recognised under the national scheme? Under the proposed scheme, a breach of an order in WA, no matter where the order was issued, is treated as a WA breach and our legislation will apply. I note that, generally, there is a level of consistency between WA penalties and those in other jurisdictions, so that is good.
The legislation operationalises an interim scheme until the development of systems that will enable instant recognition of interstate orders. The information technology to support the full scheme, which will be a dedicated information-sharing platform, is not due to be delivered until late 2019. The interim scheme will therefore depend on manual information exchange. As I noted earlier, I am pleased this bill contains some safeguards for cases in which there is some lag in information sharing. I urge the minister to do all in her power to ensure that the commonwealth sticks to the scheduled time frame so that the full scheme can be up and running as soon as possible. This is a really important issue because without development of the necessary IT, the benefits of this scheme will not be fully realised. I think the last thing we want to see is the failure of this scheme to meet its potential simply because of a lack of federal will. I am interested in the indicative costs of setting up this new system and we welcome advice from the minister regarding the total anticipated cost of establishing these systems and what WA’s share might be—whether we or the commonwealth have contributed any money.
I want to make some general comments about domestic violence. In WA over 50 000 cases of family and domestic violence have been reported to police each year for the last couple of years. This is a really unacceptable and devastating statistic. I strongly believe that preventing family and domestic violence is a shared responsibility that should be borne by the whole community. It needs to be a priority. It requires a shared understanding that family and domestic violence must not be tolerated under any circumstances. We need to prioritise the importance of protecting people, including by the legislation before us, and ensuring that there is an adequate number of refuges to meet the need.
I note particularly the impact of family and domestic violence on children and young people, and that a high number of family and domestic violence incident reports involve children. By that I mean children being either offended against or witnessing the violence, which is incredibly damaging. As members will be aware, the Ombudsman is required to review the deaths of certain children as well as family and domestic violence fatalities. The Ombudsman noted in his recently released 2016–17 annual report that family and domestic violence was associated with 70 per cent of child deaths reviewed over the past eight years. That is a horrific statistic.
We are increasingly recognising the importance of holding perpetrators accountable. Although I welcome some investment by the government, we still have a long way to go in this area because we know that family and domestic violence does not know any boundaries. It is not limited according to age, income, education, ethnicity or geography. However, it is important to note the particular needs and vulnerability of Aboriginal women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and women with disability. Research has found that Aboriginal women are less likely to apply for a violence restraining order, despite being over-represented as victims of family and domestic violence. Clearly, we need to be doing a lot more work in this space. I draw members’ attention to a report recently facilitated by the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre and undertaken by a multi-agency local family and domestic violence working group. The report notes anecdotal concerns about increased family and domestic violence in the multicultural community and that victims were unlikely to report incidents, seek support or access services. The report is highlighting the difficulty faced by women from multicultural backgrounds who experience family and domestic violence and who find themselves having to navigate a confusing and alien legal framework and service delivery system. Clearly, we still have much to do to address family and domestic violence across the community.
I will make some comments about the Standing Committee on Uniform Legislation and Statutes Review report. As has been mentioned, the Standing Committee on Uniform Legislation and Statutes Review considered this bill and its report was tabled on 10 October. The committee found that the bill is consistent with the COAG communiqué that outlines the agreement to introduce a national domestic violence order scheme. The committee also noted that although it identified some issues that may affect parliamentary sovereignty and Parliament’s law-making powers, it was of the opinion that they had been adequately explained and justified. The committee also, importantly, recommended amendment of the bill to include review of the operation and effectiveness of the act after it has been in operation for three years. I indicate that the Greens will support the proposed amendments.
The legislation before us seeks to enable cross-jurisdictional recognition of domestic violence orders, and this is a very positive step. However, it is important to acknowledge that although these orders are an important and useful protective mechanism for victims of family and domestic violence, the research literature identifies that in high-risk cases, restraining orders are insufficient if they are used alone and need to be supported by additional protective actions from police or social services. This is of particular concern in the prevention of fatalities because we know that perpetrators who are likely to commit fatalities are less concerned about the impact of an order. Nevertheless, the Greens are very happy to support this move to better protect victims of family and domestic violence. I note that it has been declared an urgent bill by the government and that the scheme was agreed to by Council of Australian Governments members back in 2015. We know that WA is lagging behind and we are now the only jurisdiction that has not yet enacted legislation to enable the national recognition of domestic violence orders. I agree that not prioritising this issue does not send the right message. It is extremely important legislation. We need to have it in place by November in order to comply with the COAG agreement. COAG is seeking to have the legislation operational in time for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which will coincide with National White Ribbon Day on 25 November. It is symbolic timing and good to be able to have a positive message to give on that day and to show that the system is improving. The Greens support this bill and look forward to a fully functional national recognition scheme being in place as soon as possible.
[speeches and comments of various members]
Question put and passed. Bill read a second time.
The Deputy Chair of Committees (Hon Matthew Swinbourn) in the chair; Hon Sue Ellery (Leader of the House) in charge of the bill.
Clause 1: Short title —
[speeches and comments of various members]
Progress reported and leave granted to sit again, on motion by Hon Sue Ellery (Leader of the House).