NSW DV bail reform: Opposition’s attempt to rush reform fails, criticised

The NSW opposition has failed in its bid to hurry a suite of major reforms that would make it more difficult for people accused of serious domestic violence offences to obtain bail.

The move was criticised by the government and crossbench who accused the opposition of rushing the bill despite 12 years of inaction when they were in government.

NSW Labor has proposed a broad suite of bail reform measures that remove the presumption of bail in serious domestic violence offences committed against intimate partners, including sexual assault, strangulation with intent to commit another offence and kidnapping.

The strengthened bail measures will also apply to coercive control.

If bail is granted, the accused will be shackled with an ankle monitor.

While the Bill is being moved through parliament, on Wednesday shadow attorney-general Alister Henskens made a motion that would “suspend standing orders” and have the Bill debated and passed through the lower house on Wednesday.

Doing so would have passed the Bill through parliament by Thursday, with the opposition supporting the measures.

“We want the bail Bill to proceed through all stages today. We don’t want what are urgent issues of public safety to be treated as anything other than urgent by this house,” he said.

However, Mr Henskens’ motion was defeated, with the crossbench and government accusing the Coalition of politicising the reforms.

This means the Bill will not be passed in this setting week, with debate deferred until parliament resumes sitting on June 4.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich said he had never “seen a proposal from an opposition that is such a dereliction of their duty and such disrespect to stakeholders” in a scathing response in parliament.

“Essentially, what the opposition is saying is they are not going to hold the government to account, they are not going to consider the legislation,” he said.

“They are not going to seek to improve this.”

He said Mr Henskens’ motion went against a “core request” of the domestic violence sector.

“What we don’t want is to create the impression that just by rushing this Bill through, women will somehow be safe,” he said.

“We cannot give women escaping domestic violence a false sense of security.”

Labor’s leader of the House, Ron Hoenig, said implementation of the reforms could not begin immediately, with the government working on actioning the Bill from July 1 to coincide with coercive control becoming a criminal offence.

“The provisions cannot commence immediately, as it involves significant changes to bail, judicial officers (need) the time to be educated, police have requested a few weeks to educate officers in the field, (and) prosecutors and to do important system changes,” he said.

“(There is also) time needed for the Aboriginal legal service, the Legal Aid Commission, the Director of Public Prosecutions – all who need time.”

Mr Henskens maintained the two-page Bill could have been “quickly digested by members of parliament as our attempt at urgency assumed”.

“Today, the opposition tried to work in a bipartisan fashion by seeking to suspend other government business to push through the government’s bail legislation this week,” he said.

“It still would have been considered by the Legislative Council where amendments could have been moved.

“Incredibly, the government voted against urgently progressing their own bail reforms.”

Representing the peak body for domestic violence advocates, Domestic Violence NSW senior policy officer Bridget Mottram advocated for the careful consideration of legislation.

“It’s critical that we have safe and trauma-informed systems for victim-survivors,” Dr Mottram said.

“To get that right, it is imperative we are not responding with rushed reforms but rather taking our time to create outcomes that are safe and beneficial and due parliamentary process is afforded.”

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