Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Sexual Harassment, March 4 Justice, Women's Safety

3:36 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

People listening in to this debate will see a great distinction between the contribution of Senator McDonald and those from the other side. Senator McDonald's contribution was poignant, considered and oozing with wise counsel. It was very, very considered, not seeking to play the cheap political card. The issues that we are dealing with are sensitive. Peoples' lives are at stake—women's lives and the lives of those who are accused. We always have to keep that in balance and in mind.

When Senator Sheldon made his contribution about the Attorney-General, of course he did not reflect on his former leader, who was similarly accused. We on this side have accepted the fact that it was investigated and the appropriate authorities determined not to proceed with it. The same standard ought to be applying to the Attorney-General. Indeed, if it is asserted by those opposite that somehow, because the police haven't proceeded, there should be a judicial inquiry into alleged behaviour when the Attorney was still a minor, why not have a similar inquiry into the behaviour of the member for Maribyrnong? There's no answer to that from the opposition, is there, because they seek to play politics with this very, very important issue.

As somebody who has volunteered his services to help establish a women's shelter—I was on the inaugural committee; I was the honorary legal adviser for many years; and I still have an interest in this area—I know the pain and the suffering that is inflicted upon the womenfolk of this country. I sought to do something about it from my own resources and my own capacities, along with a group of wonderfully dedicated individuals, both male and, especially, female.

Violence toward each other should be condemned, full stop. Violence by physically stronger people against physically weaker people is abhorrent—and so it is usually violence by men against women—and it needs to be condemned outright. Indeed, I've said before and I'll say again that talking about domestic violence I think demeans that which actually goes on. Domestic violence is actually assault. It's a crime. It should be treated as a crime and not dressed up as something that is somewhat a bit different to assault because it happened to occur at home.

These things need to be considered very carefully and very maturely. Senator McCarthy, very disappointingly, in her contribution sought to condemn the federal government as though the Northern Territory Labor government had no legislative responsibility or capacity in this area. It does. We know it does. Why only seek to blame the federal Liberal government for insufficient activity when the problem may well lie with the Northern Territory government? I don't seek to do that. I say to everybody in this chamber and Australia that trying to blame a Liberal government, a Labor government, this person or that person is playing cheap politics with a very important issue. It demeans those who seek to do it.

In concluding I rely again on the very wise words of my friend and colleague Senator Susan McDonald, who was able to express her point of view and her disappointment at the way that she herself has been handled in this debate and many other good men and women. Let's all work together to achieve an outcome to ensure that everybody in our community is safe, especially our womenfolk.


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