Madam, this Bill aims to better protect survivors of family violence. It will strengthen our ability to intervene in family violence and allow for stronger enforcement against breaches of protective measures.
I have seen the consequences on lives when our measures fall short of protecting families. I hope these amendments will allow us to act quickly and more proactively to keep families safe.
I have five points for clarification.
My first set of clarifications are on the manpower needed for implementation and enforcement. The increased protection and enforcement powers under the Bill will require trained manpower. The Bill creates the position of a protector, who holds significant powers. A protector can make an emergency order before a Court order is obtained, can remove an individual from their residence and can apply for protection orders and other family violence orders. The protector must be sensitive to the needs of family violence survivors, be able to make decisions with limited information and make quick decisions that balance the interests of all parties involved.
The new section 65(2) provides that only the Director-General may appoint any person with suitable qualifications and experience as a protector. Can the Minister of State clarify the qualifications and experience required of a protector? Can the Minister of State share what training will be introduced for protectors?
Beyond creating the position of the protector, can the Minister of State share whether there is sufficient current manpower to implement the expanded powers under the Bill? If not, what is the shortfall and what are MSF’s plans to make up for this shortfall?
My second clarification is on the individuals covered under the protection order. The new section 60A allows the Court to make a protection order if an aggressor has committed or is likely to commit family violence against an individual. When such a protected individual is the guardian or parent of minor children or otherwise vulnerable family members, it seems likely that those dependants are likely to be in the same household and face the same threats. It would be burdensome to require fresh applications for the individual’s dependants.
Can the Minister of State clarify whether when a protection order is granted to protect a caregiver of vulnerable family members, should the Court also automatically consider issuing protection orders to protect those vulnerable family members?
My third clarification is on the use of electronic monitoring. Section 60C(2) allows the Court to make an electronic monitoring order if necessary for the protection or personal safety of an individual. Given the potential intrusiveness of electronic monitoring, can the Minister of State clarify when electronic monitoring will be deemed necessary?
Bilateral monitoring where both the perpetrator and the survivor are tracked has been used in countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia. NGOs have raised to me that this may jeopardise victims’ privacy. If victims do not understand how the monitoring is carried out, it may cause unnecessary anxiety about their locations being revealed to perpetrators.
Can the Minister of State share about the types of electronic monitoring arrangements that will be introduced? Are there any plans to introduce bilateral electronic monitoring? Can the Minister of State share how electronic monitoring will be used to detect breaches of other types of orders under the Bill or other family violence offences? Can the Minister of State also share which agencies or individuals will have access to the data from electronic monitoring? How will this data be shared? And what safeguards will be in place to prevent the abuse the use of such data?
My fourth clarification is on the use of policing to complement protection and other family violence orders. Paper orders may not be sufficient to deter some offenders. Increased monitoring and risk of detection may serve as more practical deterrence. Can the Minister of State share if there are any plans to arrange appropriate levels of policing by the Police to complement protection and other types of family violence orders? For instance, is there a protocol for increased policing by the Police to be automatically arranged where protection or other types of orders are in place?
My fifth and final clarification is on the arrangements to ensure continued protection after an aggressor has served jail term for offences of family violence.
The punishment for a family violence may include imprisonment of 12 months or for aggravated offences,18 months. The imprisonment term serves as punishment for the aggressor. But for survivors of family violence, the imprisonment only protects them for as long as the aggressor is in prison. While the aggressor is in prison, there will be no instances that show the likelihood of the aggressor committing family violence since they are in jail. There may not be any factual basis for the survivor then to apply to Court for a Protection Order or other family violence orders, since there is no recent evidence of the aggressor being likely to commit family violence.
Can the Minister of State share how any imprisonment for offences of family violence will affect Protection Orders and other types of family violence orders? What arrangements will be made while this offender is in prison and after the offender’s release for the survivor’s continued protection? Madam, notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.