House debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020


Domestic and Family Violence

5:59 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I had planned for this speech, the second last that this House will hear for the year, to be full of Christmas cheer and bonhomie, but a number would not leave my head. That number is 64—64 women and children dead from family violence this year. That got me to thinking of other numbers attached to other lives, and of other lives cut short.

Every week, one Australian woman is killed by their partner or former partner. For women aged between 15 and 44, family violence is the leading cause of death, disability and illness. Women and children in Tasmania trying to flee family violence are being turned away from crisis shelters because they are packed full, so they stay. More than 30,000 older Australians have died over the past three years while on the waiting list for in-home care. Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, with people in rural areas twice as likely to take their own lives. In October and November, nine ADF veterans died by suicide. Between 2001 and 2017, there were 419 suicides among serving, reserve and ex-serving ADF personnel. More than 2,030 Australians died after receiving a robodebt notice—429 were under 35, and 663 had been classified as vulnerable.

Around 3.24 million Australians, or nearly 14 per cent of the population, live below the poverty line—774,000 are children under the age of 15. Thirty-four per cent of single women in Australia are living in poverty by the time they're 60. Single women aged 60 and over are the most likely household grouping to live in poverty. Around 1.6 million Australians receive JobSeeker, which is returning to less than $40 a day—not $40 a day for incidentals, but $40 a day to cover everything: rent, food, petrol, the kids' clothes, medical and power bills. I couldn't do it. I doubt anyone here could. It is shameful that we place this burden upon others that we would not be prepared to accept ourselves.

In Tasmania the unemployment rate is 8.2 per cent, with 21 jobseekers for every available job. More than 50,000 Tasmanians are either looking for a job or cannot get the hours they need to make ends meet. Tasmanian wages have fallen by $71 a week, while national wages have fallen by $56. Tasmanians earn $280 a week less than the national average.

Australians need $545,000 in their account to have a comfortable retirement. Women retire with just $290,000. A modest retirement is defined as having $24,250 a year. This means men can afford to live for 22½ years after retirement and women can afford just 12—too bad that they live, on average, five years longer than men.

In Tasmania's south, patients are waiting 58 days—nearly two months—for urgent infectious diseases care, 69 days for urgent aged-care outreach, 76 days for urgent wound care, 100 days for urgent diabetic service and 111 days for urgent paediatrics medicine. It's not urgent if you're waiting so long. More than 200,000 Tasmanians have at least two chronic conditions. Tasmania has the nation's worst GP bulk-billing rate, with about half of all patients facing out-of-pocket costs. And 3,300 Tasmanians are waiting desperately for public housing—if you're a priority, you're waiting, on average, 64 weeks.

As much as I wish this speech could have been breezy and fun and Christmassy, I can't escape the fact that so many of our fellow Australians are suffering. They're in real pain. Their days and nights are spent in hardship, in poverty, in violence, in addiction and in anguish. The fact that these figures exist is all the proof we need that we are not doing our jobs well enough. And I did not go into rates of addiction, incarceration, chronic disease, racism and the growing threat of far-right extremism to our democracy. The existence of these statistics should give us no comfort. It doesn't matter if some are marginally better than others or which side of politics did better; these figures represent a failure of national leadership.

It may not be our job to mollycoddle, but it is our job to provide resources, support, compassion and national leadership. It is our job to show the way by example and to demonstrate by our words and our actions what matters most in this country. It is our job to provide a national conversation grounded in tolerance, decency and respect and to deal with the serious matters that confront our nation. As we turn off the lights in this place and lock its doors for the holidays and go back to our homes and enjoy our Christmas, let us resolve that next year we will do better. We were sent here to do serious work, to lead a nation, and next year we must do better. (Time expired)