MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (17:21:42): Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for their contributions in this debate this afternoon. Suppression orders in courts are generally used at points that are very distressing for people, and I think that with everyone’s contributions today we have been able to demonstrate to those that have been in that situation that we do as parliamentarians take these issues very seriously. Indeed this debate has been underlined with respectful contributions. I also wanted to indicate that the nature of this bill essentially is about getting the balancing act right, and I think in general terms there is uniformity of opinion that that is about right. So it has been pleasing to hear the broad-based support in this chamber for the underlying principles of this legislation. It is important legislation as we move to make our justice system as open as possible. Suppression orders are an area of the law that is of particular interest to many in the community. They have been cause for much discussion in recent times in particular, and indeed there were many conversations conducted in the media during the recent trial of George Pell. Transparency is absolutely an important part of our justice system. It is not, however, the only important part of our justice system. This legislation has acknowledged that as much as possible—that justice should not be pursued nor indeed decided in the dark. This bill acknowledges that there are times when suppression orders should be used, but it also draws a line the sand and states that they should not be without a limit, that there should be a time period and that they should not be used indiscriminately. I do not wish to unnecessarily reiterate the points that have been canvassed for a significant number of hours today about the inception and development of this legislation. However, I will take a brief moment to remind the chamber that the legislation has come out of the Vincent review, which was a review of the operation of the Open Courts Act 2013. Of the review’s 18 recommendations, 14 are legislative and four are non-legislative. The non-legislative recommendations are being progressed independently, and the government has already implemented recommendation 4 by asking the Victorian Law Reform Commission to review the laws of contempt and aspects of the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958. The government has already implemented recommendation 16, which relates to the disclosure of the identities of adult victims in Children’s Court proceedings. This was done in the Justice Legislation Amendment (Victims) Act 2018. This leaves 13 outstanding legislative recommendations. The recommendations implemented in this bill are those that can be implemented now. The recommendations that are not being implemented are complex and require further consultation and funding before they can be given effect. The support proposed for future implementations is as follows, and many speakers—particularly government members—have mentioned that there is a second tranche, another bill, that will come before this Parliament. That will do a number of things, including: ensuring the reasons for making suppression orders are made publicly available in written form—that is recommendation 6; establishing a public register of suppression orders—that is recommendation 7; treating all suppression orders as interim orders for five days, after which they would become final unless challenged—that is recommendation 8; removing the distinction between proceeding and broad suppression orders in the Open Courts Act—that is recommendation 10; amending the Serious Offenders Act 2018 to restrict the making of orders suppressing the identities and whereabouts of serious sex offenders, having regard to the ramifications of disclosure, including individuals’ personal safety—that is recommendation 14; and requiring the making of interim suppression orders at initial bail hearings in cases involving alleged sexual or family violence offences or creating a statutory prohibition as an alternative mechanism to protect victims, which is recommendation 17. The other supported legislative recommendations are expected to be implemented in 2020. I think there were some issues that have been raised by people about the timing of where the second tranche of recommendations might be forthcoming, so we do indicate that the objective is definitely 2020. The government is giving further consideration to recommendation 18, and in that consideration there will be full consultation with the stakeholders involved. That of course is about allowing the Public Interest Monitor to act as a contradictor in suppression order applications. So I think that there will be full and robust discussion that will ensue on those areas. Of the four recommendations that are not legislative in nature, one, as I said, was implemented when the government asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to review the laws of contempt and aspects of the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act. The remaining three are being progressed independently, with a view to implementing them as soon as possible. So I think that gives members of the chamber an idea about what the government will be doing leading up to the next tranche and indeed when we can expect to see an outcome that will enable the passage of the next round of amendments to the act. But can I say that whilst there are many aspects to what is before us this afternoon, I think one of the points of significant interest that the community has is what the actual effect will be in terms of the number of suppression orders. Indeed with this bill it is expected that there will be a reduction in the number of suppression orders made by Victorian courts and tribunals through implementing four key changes recommended by the review. These changes are to reinforce the importance of open justice and make clear that suppression orders under the Open Courts Act are only to be made as exceptions to the principle of open justice where necessary. They are recommendations 1 and 2. This will ensure that courts do not make suppression orders too easily by applying a mere presumption in favour of openness as under the current law. Further, it will prevent suppression orders being made under the Open Courts Act when a provision in other legislation prohibits or restricts the publication of information. That is recommendation 4. This will reduce the number of suppression orders by preventing duplication. An example of such a provision is the prohibition against publishing the identity of a victim or alleged victim of a sexual offence in the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958. Further, requiring the courts to give reasons for making a suppression order under the Open Courts Act particularly implements recommendation 6. This will ensure that orders are only made to the extent necessary. It will also ensure that suppression orders made in a proceeding in a lower court continue on appeal. That is recommendation 9. This will reduce the making of suppression orders which essentially protect the same information of disclosure. As many other speakers have mentioned, it also deals with the publishing of juvenile convictions of young offenders. It also deals with the reporting of Children’s Court proceedings. It also talks about the expectations to give reasons for making every suppression order. It also deals with the reasons for making suppression orders being publicly available in a written form. Of course this bill will also benefit victims of sexual or family violence offences seeking to disclose their identities. This bill also protects victims of sexual or family violence offences who do not want their identities disclosed. Overall I consider this to be a good bill in that it does get the balancing act right. It ensures that various users of the justice system, whether it be the courts themselves or indeed victims and perpetrators, understand that there is going to be greater transparency but that at the same time the rights of individuals will be protected. Whilst this has been a fairly lengthy debate and discussion, the fact of the matter is that this has been an issue of interest and concern in the community for some time. As I mentioned and others have mentioned, the principles have been highlighted in a very active way in the media in recent times as well. In fact it is contemporaneous that this bill is before the house this afternoon, because it does give effect to making sure we do have a more finely tuned justice system in this state, where the principles of openness and transparency get a good footing. I look forward to the next tranche that comes before the house in 2020 that will deal with the outstanding recommendations of the Vincent review. Again, I thank all members of the chamber who contributed to this debate this afternoon. I think we have canvassed a range of areas that are contained in the bill and have been able to provide a number of examples and lived experience that have added to the true nature of what we are wanting to do with respect to this bill today. I commend this bill to the house. I think it has got the balance right, and indeed I look forward to seeing the next tranche come before this house next year.
Motion agreed to. Read second time.