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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5417

Senator STEPHENS (Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector and Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Prime Minister for Social Inclusion) (3:41 PM) —by leave—I would like to make a short statement in relation to the petition. This is a very important petition which represents the work of Amnesty International in the Stop Violence Against Women campaign. I congratulate them on their work in gathering more than 30,000 signatures for this petition. As we all know, violence against women is an old problem, but it is still very much with us. However, we do not agree that it is an insoluble problem. As we know, one in three women experience domestic or family violence in their lifetime and one in five experience sexual assault.

Sexual assault and domestic and family violence are among the most pervasive forms of violence. The government’s position on domestic violence and sexual assault is one of zero tolerance. The Amnesty International petition called for the establishment and implementation of a national plan of action. I am very pleased to report to the Senate that progress on the development of the government’s national plan to reduce violence against women is well underway.

In May 2008, the government established an 11-member national council to advise on the development of an evidence based plan of action to reduce the incidence and impact of domestic and family violence and sexual assault on women and children. The council conducted significant research and developed five documents which provide governments and the community with clear directions to help Australian women live free of violence, within respectful relationships and in safe communities. The government supports the direction of Time for action and has agreed to immediately progress 18 priority recommendations and refer the Time for action report to the Council of Australian Governments.

We have also invested $12.5 million for a new national telephone and online crisis service and invested $26 million for primary prevention activities and are continuing to invest $3 million for research into programs that are successful in ending perpetrators’ violence. We have asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to work with state and territory law reform commissions to consider and examine the interrelationship with laws that relate to the safety of women and their children.

We will continue to work with the state and territory governments to develop the final National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women for release in 2010. I am pleased to advise that the ministerial council on the national plan will have its first meeting in the next couple of weeks. I acknowledge the work of Amnesty International in their Stop Violence Against Women campaign and in bringing this to the Senate and raising awareness about this important issue.