Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022

19th October 2022

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (12:07): I speak briefly in debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022, which I believe represents a significant and somewhat historic moment in our fight against domestic violence. Like most members of this House, I have received a large amount of correspondence on this issue, and I feel that it is important to put my comments on the record. I believe the bill, with a number of minor amendments—which I will address later—gets an important reform off the starting blocks. It does not go as far as some would like, it does not address every single nuance that some would prefer and it is unlikely to solve all the problems we have in this sphere. But I have no doubt that it is a great step forward in addressing the insidious role that coercive control plays in the scourge of domestic violence in our communities.

We have made attempts to reform this area before. I was generally supportive of the bill introduced by the member for Shellharbour, and I am supportive of this bill. When the member for Shellharbour introduced her bill I made the point that the Government could have been moving far quicker than it was on this issue. It has taken a long time to get to this point. As we know, this is an extremely difficult area to legislate around. Yet it is absolutely vital we do it, and do it properly. I acknowledge the many years of consultation done to prepare the bill, and I acknowledge the invaluable roles that key stakeholder groups have had in its formation.

I also accept that not everyone has landed on the same page. Some would argue, perhaps rightly, that the bill does not go far enough and that it should extend beyond the scope of those in intimate relationships to various family settings and to elder abuse. I agree with that sentiment, but I do not believe it is a reason to reject the bill. As the Attorney General has rightly pointed out, of the 112 intimate partner domestic violence homicides that occurred in New South Wales between 2008 and 2016, coercive control against the victim was a factor in 111 of those tragic deaths. That is where the immediate priority should lay for us as lawmakers.

Having said that, the evidence suggests that coercive behaviour in intimate partner settings is somewhat different to coercive control in other settings such as elder or sibling abuse, at least when it comes to legislating around those settings in law. As it stands, patterns of coercive behaviour occur at a much greater rate in intimate partnerships than they do in other relationships. We know that very well, and so I am satisfied that our priorities are in the right place with the bill. Others have expressed concern about the inclusion of verbally abusive behaviours and the fact that it may incur unintended consequences that are not consistent with the legislation's intent. However, I believe the bill appropriately sets out the definitions for the types of verbally abusive behaviours and patterns of behaviours required to meet the threshold of coercive control.

There is room for review of the bill as we move forward with it. I note that the bill requires a review after three years of operation. That has caused me some concern as I would like us to look more closely at areas that may be improved over time and more regularly as things play out in the real world. As flagged, the member for Sydney will propose an amendment to have the legislation reviewed after two years and again on two more occasions, which are each two years after the previous review. I support that amendment and I appreciate the assistance of the Attorney General in reaching that agreement.

The horrific abuse that is happening within our communities must be stopped. We have all heard the unimaginable stories of abuse, particularly of women in our local communities. I do not know all the answers. I do not even know why those levels of violence happen at all, but I know they happen and that a toxic culture of partner ownership exists with some people, particularly—and way too often—men. I also know that our response must be workable and it must create a framework that genuinely protects, deters and punishes. Coercive control is an extremely complex problem that presents significant legal and practical difficulties to fix, but I believe the bill provides a significant shift in the right direction.

I acknowledge the work of the Attorney General and his staff on the issue and the time he has taken to work with me and other members of the crossbench in working through our concerns. I also acknowledge the members of the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control, who did such good work on the matter and dealt with such complex and sensitive issues. I particularly single out the member for Shellharbour, who has also played a significant role in us getting to this bill. I commend the bill to the House.

Website: Read full Parliamentary debate here

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