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NSW Attorney-General says many ‘screaming for law reform’ in wake of sex assault allegations

(CU)_New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman says revelations about the treatment of women in politics have prompted cries for legal and cultural reform, as his government prepares to respond to a review of sexual consent laws this year.

The AG faced a NSW budget estimate hearing standing up for the delay in responding to last year’s review by the NWS Law Reform Commission.

“If you look at the revelations and the stories at the moment, I think that there will be many people screaming for action, screaming for law reform and screaming for cultural change. But I respect the cabinet process,” he said.

“[If] cabinet decides to legislate, I anticipate that legislation will be enacted this year… but I cannot preempt what I say to cabinet, here.”

Mr. Speakman confirmed that he had no communication with his federal counterparts or any other person from the Morrison Government with regards to an alleged rape in 1988 that has been associated with a current minister.

The Law Reform Commission last year recommended NSW follow Tasmania in stating a person does not consent to sex if they do not “say or do anything to communicate consent”, to stop a “freeze response” being regarded as consent.

As said by Mr. Speakman, he understands that most victims and women’s groups support the proposals, but also stated that the public defenders and the Bar Association thinks it stretches out too far.

Saxon Mullins is a high profile opponent of the Commission’s review. Ms. Mullins is an experienced complainant in the trial of Luke Lazarus and the review was in favor of Mr Lazarus as he was found not guilty in 2017.

Ms. Mullins last year said it failed to recommend a separate Tasmanian provision that belief in consent is not honest or reasonable unless the person took “reasonable steps” in the circumstances to ascertain consent.

“I’ll take all those stakeholder and community views on board,” Mr. Speakman said.

A sum of $7 million has been spent on a clinical trial at the Kirby Institute, UNSW, where domestic violence offenders are treated with anti-depressant drugs.  Mr. Speakman who is the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence has been asked to account for this money.

Mr. Speakman has been requested by Upper House Labor MP Rose Jackson to reply to reports that offenders were part of the trial just so that they could have access to their partners and their former partners and children, “putting those people at risk.”

Greens MP Abigail Boyd referred to reports of a child being beat up by one of the persons who took part in the trial, adding that producers of the drug state “you cannot use or you should not use this type of antidepressant with a population who are already showing aggression.”

Mr. Speakman defended the randomized trial and said he had no evidence of perpetrators misusing the trial or resulting harm to children.

 “We have an intractable problem with domestic and family violence in Australia, and in NSW. The initial results from this are very promising. It builds on well recognized knowledge in the medical field that this anti-depressant can reduce impulsive behavior.”

While Mr. Speakman’s portfolio included the responsibility of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug called “Ice” the findings of which was conveyed to the Government 12 months ago. He acknowledged the government’s failure to respond to the inquiry by its self-imposed deadline of the end of last year, and said it was still considering 104 recommendations.

The government was last year forced to water down a cabinet leak suggesting it planned to decriminalise the possession of small quantities of drugs by introducing a “three chance” system.

“We’ve given some public commentary that we don’t intend to decriminalise,” Mr. Speakman said, which “de facto rules out” at least one recommendation.

“Ultimately I am one of 20 cabinet ministers, it is ultimately up to cabinet to decide how and when it responds, but I’m certainly keen to see a response sooner rather than later.”

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