Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Domestic and Family Violence
I, and also on behalf of Senator Hanson-Young, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) on 19 February 2020, a man murdered his ex-wife, Ms Hannah Clarke, and their three children by dousing their car with petrol and setting it alight,
(ii) Ms Clarke was the 8th woman to be killed by violence since the start of 2020,
(iii) many initial media reports of the crime sought to minimise her
ex-husband's role or to portray him as a "loving father pushed too far",
(iv) following a Four Corners report on 17 February 2020 regarding the conviction of an athletics coach at St Kevin's for grooming a student, prominent commentators also sought to minimise the offence and its consequences,
(v) inaccurate and biased reporting of violence against women and children allows a culture of violence and entitlement to perpetuate,
(vi) guidelines adopted by the Press Council, Commercial Radio Australia and FreeTV Australia for reporting of sexual, domestic and family violence make clear that reports should emphasise the role of the perpetrator and avoid any suggestion of culpability on the part of the victim or survivor – for example, the various guidelines state:
(A) "Words matter: Publications should be mindful of the language they use and try to avoid terms that tend to trivialise, demean or inadvertently excuse family violence",
(B) "Violence is never acceptable: The perpetrator is always solely responsible for a violent situation – Avoid using language or framing the story in a way that suggests the survivor of violence was in any way to blame for what happened to him or her", and
(C) "Domestic violence is sometimes reported with headlines like 'Woman assaulted', or with stories that focus only on what happened to the survivor – This can suggest that violence is something that 'just happens' to women – Emphasise that someone perpetrated this violence, and that it was a crime"; and
(vii) current guidelines are advisory only and are not part of the enforceable standards against which complaints can be assessed; and
(b) calls on all reporters, commentators and media outlets to comply with guidelines for reporting on sexual, domestic and family violence.
Question agreed to.
(1) That the Senate notes that:
(a) on 19 February, Mr Rowan Baxter murdered his wife
Ms Hannah Clarke, aged 31, and their children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3,
(b) Mr Baxter doused his family in petrol and burnt them alive in their car on a suburban Queensland street before taking his own life,
(c) according to Ms Clarke's family and friends, Hannah had experienced years of emotional, sexual and physical abuse in her marriage to Mr Baxter, had only recently been able to escape with her children, and had a domestic violence restraining order in place against Mr Baxter at the time he committed these murders,
(d) this horrific event has shocked Australia and the Senate joins in that shock, expresses its grief, deep sorrow and support for the family and friends of Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey,
(e) violence against women is a national shame in Australia:
(i) according to the Australian Institute of Criminology, on average, one woman a week in Australia is murdered by her current or former partner,
(ii) according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:
1. 1 in 4 women in Australia has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15,
2. 1 in 5 women in Australia has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15,
3. almost 40% of women continued to experience violence from their partner while temporarily separated, and
4. 1 in 6 women has experienced stalking since the age of 15; and
(iii) according to studies commissioned by the Department of Social Services:
1. children of mothers experiencing domestic violence have higher rates of social and emotional problems than other children, and
2. violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy $22 billion a year;
(f) according to studies conducted by Our Watch, 1 in 3 young people don't think controlling someone is a form of violence, and
(g) according to a news report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian police deal with domestic violence every two minutes.
(2) That the Senate calls on the Commonwealth Government to:
(a) acknowledge that Australians demand more, and more effective, action to stop the violence,
(b) acknowledge that violence against women is an urgent matter of national importance, and
(c) convene a national summit as soon as possible with states, territories, service providers, experts and survivors to address this crisis.
The Prime Minister has placed this on the agenda of the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments on 13 March, including a status report on the work that all governments are undertaking as part of the fourth action plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. The work of addressing domestic and family violence is done in partnership and alongside the states and territories, who are on the front line.
Question agreed to.
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) on the same day that Queensland Police Commissioner, Ms Katarina Carroll, said it was inappropriate to suggest the murder of a woman and her children by her husband could be an instance of a husband being driven too far, Ms Bettina Arndt, who received an Order of Australia honour in January, nonetheless said "keeping an open mind and awaiting proper evidence, including the possibility that Rowan Baxter might have been driven too far",
(ii) the statement of Ms Arndt has the potential to bring the Order of Australia, instituted by Her Majesty The Queen, into disrepute, and
(iii) Order of Australia awards are a privilege and an honour and come with responsibilities; and
(b) agrees that:
(i) Ms Arndt's comments are reckless and abhorrent, and
(ii) the values that underpin Ms Arndt's views on this horrific family violence incident are not consistent with her retaining her Order of Australia.
We will support this motion. Comments like those expressed by Ms Arndt are abhorrent and unacceptable. There are never any excuses or justifications for family violence or the evil that Hannah Clarke and her children experienced. The government does not make decisions to award or cancel honours in the Order of Australia, and government senators respect the independence and confidentiality of the deliberations of the Council for the Order of Australia in making recommendations to the Governor-General. In respecting the independence of the council, it's important that this motion is not seen as directing the Council of the Order of Australia, whose independent deliberations must be respected.
One Nation will not support this motion, which directly attacks both Bettina Arndt and her defence of Queensland Detective Inspector Mark Thompson. The circumstances that emergency services respondents faced that day are unprecedented. Detective Inspector Mark Thompson faced a media pack like no other. His comments were unscripted as he tried to accommodate both the media and the public's heartfelt disbelief of the calculating, callous murder-suicide of Hannah Clarke and her three children by her former husband, Rowan Baxter. It is the role of the police to investigate this unconscionable incident, and that may very well include triggers that led to the event on 19 February. No right-thinking person condones the actions of domestic violence, and this was one of the country's worst. Bettina Arndt has the right to support the role of police and, in particular, Detective Inspector Mark Thompson— (Time expired)
I would just like to place on the record that this motion has been carefully crafted to ensure that this chamber in no way is making comment or condemnation of the Queensland Police. We support the work of our police officers. We recognise the comments made by the Police Commissioner Katarina Caroll. This motion has been carefully crafted to make clear that the concern expressed—and I hope expressed by this chamber—is with the comments of Ms Bettina Arndt only. As the mother of a police officer, I strongly support the work of those men and women who bravely support and protect everyone in the community, including victims of domestic violence.