The chances of the Legislative Council voting on an age of consent bill this year look good, as two almost identical bills on the issue stand in the queue of legislation waiting to be debated. The first was introduced by Labor MLC Jan Burnswoods and was defeated by one vote in 1999. The second was introduced by Democrat MLC Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans in March.
However, neither bill will be debated immediately. Burns-woods told SSO yesterday that she was not likely to push for a contingency motion to bring the bill on for early debate. Chesterfield-Evans has previously made a similar statement about his bill to the Star.
Burnswoods said that while she was supportive of the content of the Chesterfield-Evans bill, she believed her bill stood a slightly better chance of being accepted by a majority of MLCs. There could be one or two Labor MPs who would be more inclined to support a private member’s bill from a fellow Labor MP than a bill that had come from the Democrats, she revealed.
Reasonably optimistic was how Burnswoods des-cribed her mood about the prospects of age of consent law reform.
Everything is moving in favour [of law reform], Burns-woods said, citing the words of support that had come from the premier and the opposition leader. But cutting across this trend, she said, was the impending state election.
Over the next year, the chance of the major parties being overtaken by nervousness on this issue is increased, she said.
A spokesperson for Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans said that while there had been some dispute between Burnswoods and Chesterfield-Evans on the carriage of the age of consent matter, the Demo-crats would be supportive of her bill if it came up for debate before their own.