Premier’s consent laws slammed as ‘unfit’
A last-ditch move will be made to introduce affirmative consent laws to parliament in a bid to force the state government's hand on the issue, as a range of advocates push for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to intervene.
The Greens will try to move amendments today or tomorrow to push for Queensland to have an affirmative model of consent - where people must "clearly and positively" express their consent.
It comes as The Courier-Mail can reveal a powerful open letter has been written to the Premier and Attorney-General, signed by about a dozen advocacy groups, calling on them to introduce the same consent models in place in Victoria and Tasmania.
SCROLL DOWN TO READ THE FULL LETTER
They have slammed consent laws set to pass this week as "not fit for purpose" and claimed it will do little to improve the safety and wellbeing of women.
"Affirmative consent laws along with 'reasonable steps' will deliver a better experience of justice for women," they wrote.
"They will be more likely to be believed and more likely to have their charges brought to trial and successfully prosecuted. There is no need to refer an affirmative consent model to a taskforce or another inquiry and be forced to wait for an undefined time for them to report back.
"The moment calls for decisive and meaningful action. Please take this opportunity to continue your strong leadership in this space."
The letter urges the government to "honour the courage" of women who publicly shared their stories, which includes government and opposition MPs who bravely spoke to The Courier-Mail.
"We must honour the courage of women who have publicly shared stories of rape and sexual violence by working together to overturn systemic barriers that entrench gender inequality," the letter says. "Introducing an affirmative consent model relating to sexual assault and rape crimes (along with reasonable steps) is integral to this."
The Queensland Council of Social Service, Women's Legal Service Queensland and Ending Violence Against Women are among the groups that have signed off on the letter.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman defended the legislation as an important first step in modernising consent laws, but acknowledged there was "always more to do".
"I understand that some stakeholders believe the laws could go further, and our Government will always look at ways we can improve women's safety," she said.
"This month we announced a wide-ranging review of women's experiences in the criminal justice system.
"The Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce - led by the Hon Margaret McMurdo AC - will not just look at the need for further legislative amendments to our consent laws.
"It will also examine attitudinal change, prevention, early intervention, service responses and how we can remove the many barriers women face when reporting assault.
The Greens are vowing to move their own amendments to the legislation to introduce an affirmative model of consent - in a bid to force the government to vote on the issue in parliament. Under their proposed amendments, consent would have to be "clearly and positively" expressed.
Greens MP Amy MacMahon accused the Labor government of ignoring the voices of the organisations that have been calling for an affirmative model of consent.
"Thousands of women and allies marched for justice last week, including many government ministers," she said.
"And now they're passing up this opportunity to improve the lives of so many women in Queensland. Our amendments would make Queensland a leader in terms of seeking justice for victim/survivors of sexual violence."
LNP Shadow Attorney-General Tim Nicholls said the Opposition supported the legislation in its current form.
Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said she was open to looking at other models of consent based on "good research and best practice".
"I would prefer a considered approach before potentially making any recommendations to the government," she said.
THE LETTER TO THE PREMIER AND ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Dear Premier Palaszczuk and Minister Fentiman
We, the undersigned, provide services and support to victims and survivors of sexual violence.
In the past weeks we have seen you and other prominent women in Queensland act with courage, detailing your own experiences of violence and discrimination and join in the #March4Justice demonstrations last Monday 15 March 2021.
We implore you to channel your courage and energy to ensure that women in Queensland who have experienced sexual violence have the same protections as women in Tasmania and Victoria.
We are asking you to ensure that our rape laws require people to enthusiastically consent to sex and include that 'reasonable steps' are taken by parties to ensure consent.
In law, this is described as an affirmative consent model with a 'reasonable steps' aspect.
In practice, this means people demonstrate they want to have sex before it happens and ensure they take steps to ensure agreement.
The Criminal Code (Consent and Mistake of Fact) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020,
expected to pass this week, is not fit for purpose and will do little to improve the safety and wellbeing of women. Affirmative consent laws along with 'reasonable steps' will deliver a better experience of justice for women. They will be more likely to be believed and more likely to have their charges brought to trial and successfully prosecuted.
The affirmative model of consent and reasonable steps exists in other parts of Australia, you can change things for women in Queensland now. There is no need to refer an affirmative
consent model to a taskforce or another inquiry and be forced to wait for an undefined time for them to report back.
We must honour the courage of women who have publicly shared stories of rape and sexual
violence by working together to overturn systemic barriers that entrench gender inequality.
Introducing an affirmative consent model relating to sexual assault and rape crimes (along with reasonable steps) is integral to this.
The moment calls for decisive and meaningful action. Please take this opportunity to continue
your strong leadership in this space.
Women's Legal Service Queensland
Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS)
Queensland Sexual Assault Network
Aboriginal Family Legal Service Southern Queensland
Children By Choice
Women's Health Queensland
Ending Violence Against Women Queensland
Queensland Alliance for Mental Health
Queensland Youth Housing Coalition
Gold Coast Domestic Violence Prevention Centre
Basic Rights Queensland
Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy (RASARA)
Edon Place Domestic & Family Violence Centre
Originally published as Premier's consent laws slammed as 'unfit'