Senate debates

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Statements by Senators

Family Violence

1:14 pm

Photo of Barry O'SullivanBarry O'Sullivan (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on an issue relating to violence against women and children in our society. I made a pledge in this place on a number of occasions to continue to keep this discussion alive; to keep it in front of colleagues and in front of legislators. Each day that we make decisions in this place and in other place, we need to give consideration to the impact of those decisions on progressing culturally, and otherwise, measures that will mitigate and hopefully extinguish, this terrible practice in our society.

Today in particular I want to make reference to a report very appropriately named Not now, not ever, published as a result of an inquiry into these matters by the Queensland government. The inquiry was conducted under the very professional eye of the Hon. Quentin Bryce, past governor in that state, and a very respected Australian. Ms Bryce brought together a panel of people made up of some legislators, people representing pastoral care organisations and community representatives. They were eventually to publish a very detailed report listing their findings and making no less than 140 recommendations.

Whilst the report itself is directed at measures that can be implemented, in this case by the Queensland state government, I think it is rich in ideas that ought to be considered by all of the legislative chambers in the country, including our House of Representatives and the Senate in which we sit.

I want to open with a statement that is in the preface of the report from the Hon. Quentin Bryce, because I think this really goes to the heart of the issue:

It is beholden upon all of us—every single citizen of this diverse, vibrant state—

She says 'state'; but I say nation—

to take a stand against domestic and family violence; to commit to protecting the vulnerable; and to make it clear to those who would hurt another, within a relationship of intimacy and trust, that we will not tolerate, excuse, condone or accept their behaviour.

That has effectively set the tone of the objectives that this inquiry decided to pursue. I quote another section:

Domestic and family violence, in all forms, is a violation of basic human rights. Everyone, regardless of their sex, religion, nationality, race, language, relationship, or living arrangements, has the right to feel safe and be safe in public and at home. Domestic and family violence, which is perpetrated in the home or among family members, is as much a matter of public concern as crime in the streets. It must not be accepted or excused.

Not now, not ever.

The course of this report is impossible for me to go across in any detail in the time I have today. But I will be continuing to articulate the objectives and the recommendations of this report for some time to come. The inquiry found fundamentally that there are to be three phases in the nation's response—in this case, the states' response to this problem. It talks about looking over the horizon. I look up today and there is a fine body of young men here from one of our nation's colleges looking down on this legislature. This report and the journey that we need to make is in their hands as much as it is in the hands of our respective governments.

The report focuses on recommendations for the now to see that we immediately and properly resource those professionals in the community that are at the coalface of this particular problem. It talks about policy upgrades. It talks about elevating the importance of the response of our agencies and ensuring they have the financial, human and physical resources to be able to do their job. It talks about the upgrade of the response, meaning that, for example, our law enforcement agencies need to treat their response to incidents of domestic violence right at the top of the pinnacle of the services that they provide to our community.

It is well known that I am a retired police officer. I know that oftentimes responses to domestic violence can be treated in a secondary fashion due to other things going on in the lives of these professionals who provide this service. It is time now for all the agencies to make sure that that first line, that immediate response, is enhanced.

The report then makes recommendations about the medium term—again with an emphasis on restructuring policies about how we respond. There are recommendations about further resourcing needs that will require ongoing debate and of course provision by both the Commonwealth and state agencies to provide that financial support to allow these professionals to do their jobs.

The development and implementation of training and also the operation of some public awareness campaigns will be directed at ensuring that every single Australian, no matter who you are, no matter where you are and no matter what it is you do, involve themselves in the appropriate responses to stamp out this cowardly behaviour by these grubs—I have no other name to call them. But, in the long term, the report emphasises that this requires a cultural change. This requires us beginning to educate our young men in their formative years to deter them of the practice, to ensure that our young women know what options are available and to know that they are loved and supported by their family and their community as we all battle this insidious disorder.

In closing, to all the young men in our nation I say that, in effect, this is a man's problem. The vast majority of the instances are men exercising the power on women and children. If we are at the heart of the problem, we are at the heart of the solution. Every man in this country must now wake up each day and determine what they can do. The time for establishing that we have a problem, I say, is behind us. We know what we need to do. We must now demonstrate the will to do it and we must do so under the umbrella of the wonderful name of this report in relation to domestic violence on women and children: not now, not ever.