Dr WOODRUFF question to ATTORNEY-GENERAL, Ms ARCHER
It has been well over a year since coroner Olivia McTaggart recommended the creation of a new standalone offence for non-fatal strangulation to protect survivors of family violence. Tasmania is lagging the nation on this important reform. The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute and the Women's Legal Service have also called for this law reform. Your identical responses to all media inquiries on this particular matter, including in a story today, seem to be carefully crafted to avoid addressing the real issue. So far you have not made a commitment to introducing a standalone offence or given a time line for making a decision.
Last month a woman experiencing family violence called our office, after reading comments raised by us on this reform issue in the newspaper. She said she had given up thinking anything would ever happen but now she had a sliver of hope. We wrote to you on 10 August seeking clarity on exactly what is happening with this matter but has not received a response yet. Will you commit to enacting this reform and will you do so as a matter of priority?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question, which is an important question. It is true that I have had a consistent position. The reason I have had a consistent position is because this is an important area of law reform I have referred it to the Sentencing Advisory Council to give it the appropriate, proper and detailed analysis that we require in Tasmania.
To explain that, Tasmania has a different set of laws with regard to our Criminal Code. As members will know, when we are looking at law reform that impacts particularly in relation to the Criminal Code and the Evidence Act, I take that very seriously and we need to ensure that we do not impact on other areas within that framework. In this case, it is an appropriate matter to refer to the Sentencing Advisory Council.
It is true that in non-fatal strangulation, other states have standalone offences and that is the difference between our systems. At the moment there are varying offences that can be used within our Criminal Code and the maximum penalty for that is 20 years, which is more than five to 10 years in relation to standalone offences. That is the reason why I have referred it to the Sentencing Advisory Council.
I do not want a situation to occur where what we might do is actually not as good as what we currently have
I thank the member for her question. I reconfirm our commitment as a government to the action we have taken to prevent and respond to family violence. I know with the Premier being the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, we take this issue very seriously, as I take the issue very seriously as Attorney-General. I also hear the Minister for Human Services and the Minister for Women. Across portfolio areas and across government departments we have worked for a number of years in relation to our strong response to the issue of family violence, particularly our investment of over $60 million toward the prevention of family violence. This is a very important issue.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker, could I seek a clarification from the minister that you are saying you will commit to this reform, and you are waiting advice of the Sentencing Advisory Council about the form that it could be introduced?
Ms ARCHER - What I have done is refer the matter to the Sentencing Advisory Council for it to consider how we could strengthen our laws in relation to the issues of strangulation and choking. I do not want to pre-empt their advice so I am leaving that analysis in their hands as to what they might recommend back to us. As you know I make those recommendation public. I have expressed a desire that it is matter of priority. I do not have a definite time frame but I can undertake to ask about their workload and when they expect to be in that position.