Tasmania is set to draw itself alongside the rest of the nation in introducing a stand-alone offence for non-fatal strangulation after both major parties committed to the legislation at The Examiner's Premier Debate last night.
The offence was thrust into the limelight in the state in 2019 after the strangulation murder of Sorell woman Jodi Eaton and the ensuing coroner recommendation about legislating for the offence.
Family violence advocacy group Engender Equality and Women's Legal Services Tasmania celebrated the commitment, something both groups have campaigned for tirelessly for years.
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Engender Equality chief executive Alina Thomas said the decision had the potential to significantly change the lives of survivors of family violence.
It's timely that we really address some of the lags in our legislation to be better protect victim survivors of family violence.Alina Thomas
"Hopefully the changes to the law can occur swiftly so the message can be delivered into the community about the severity of non-fatal strangulation and help support survivors into an adequate justice response."
Women's Legal Service Tasmania chief executive Yvette Cehtel said the impact on the lives of women would be far reaching.
"We're really pleased to see that the premier has moved on this and given us a commitment. And it's fantastic to see the leader of the opposition has also committed to the reform," she said.
It will mean a lot for women and it will mean that perpetrators will be sentenced accordingly and their behaviour will be recognised in Magistrates and Supreme courts and will strengthen the response.Yvette Cehtel
"It was overwhelmingly supported by the sector. The whole sector wanted it."
Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest, who has continued to pressure the government over its Sentencing Advisory Council report into the offence said the decision sent a clear message.
"This action that perpetrators do take is a very serious and entirely inappropriate action that will not be tolerated at any level," she said.
This action that perpetrators do take is a very serious and entirely inappropriate action that will not be tolerated at any level.Ruth Forrest
"I hope it is a matter of priority when we return to parliament."
During the debate prospective Premiers Peter Gutwein and Rebecca White were asked whether they would commit to legislating the offence.
Fighting Back against family violence
"I can't understand why, given the evidence that is provided, it hasn't already happened," Ms White said.
"The power we have as politicians is to legislate on the things that make us frustrated and angry."
Mr Gutwein confirmed that his government would do the same in strengthening the law in a way that made it a stand-alone offence.
"We put out our policy this week to strengthen the law in that area and I would absolutely commit to introduce new legislation in respect to that matter should we be re-elected," he said.
Attorney-General Elise Archer had previously remained steadfast regarding the introduction of a specific offence.
The Tasmanian Liberal's policy announcement earlier this week said the government would "work to strengthen our non-fatal strangulation laws" but did not commit to an explicit individual offence.
The Greens has pressured the government since the coroner Olivia McTaggart released her recommendations. Greens Bass candidate Jack Davenport welcomed the decision to legislate against no-fatal strangulation, but questioned why it had taken so long.
"The Greens have been passionately advocating for this important reform in Parliament, in the media, and in correspondence with the Attorney-General. We welcome the fact both major parties have finally come to the table in supporting this change," he said.
"Given it's nearly two years since this change was recommended by the coroner, and Tasmania is lagging behind the nation on this reform, it's important this legislative change is made an absolute priority for all parties following the election."
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