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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12198


Mr HART (Bass) (13:02): In fact, I was planning to speak in continuation, since I was speaking earlier last week regarding the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2018, to observe the fact that this government appears to have a problem with women. We've had since then a motion to suspend standing orders. The defence to the suspension of standing orders was not that the government didn't have a problem with women but rather that this side of the House, the Labor Party, didn't want to speak about important matters that were before the parliament. That defence was absolute nonsense because there are, by my count, 32 speakers on this side ready to speak on government legislation—32 speakers from Labor ready to speak about issues that are important to the Australian public—and only one government member who is prepared to speak on any legislation today. So that defence obviously fails utterly.

We have a government that doesn't take women seriously. We have a government whose own Minister for Women has indicated that the Liberal Party is 'anti-women', if she's been correctly quoted. We have a Prime Minister who has different priorities. He prefers to attend other events within this parliament rather than to attend the family violence event Our Watch.

Back to the point at hand: the vital issue of family and domestic violence. I was talking, before I was interrupted, about the costs of being involved in domestic and family violence and what it costs to leave an abusive relationship. The costs of leaving an abusive relationship can be significant, they can be immediate and they can be long term. The costs will include relocation—including lease-break costs, costs to repair damaged furniture and/or a damaged tenancy, and the cost of finding alternative accommodation—medical and counselling bills, increased transportation costs, including loss of access to a car, and lost earnings. The ACTU has placed a total figure in the typical case at approximately $18,000. Postdoctoral research fellow Kate Farhill has noted the considerable disadvantage flowing through a victim's life. It can adversely affect lifetime earnings. Some studies from the United States show a 25 per cent loss in income associated with domestic violence and abuse. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that around two out of three women who experience domestic violence are in the workforce.

There can be no doubt that a comprehensive response to domestic and family violence must involve a workplace response. Other jurisdictions have introduced paid domestic violence leave. Labor believes that Australia's federal workplace system should also provide support and a workplace entitlement. In July this year New Zealand legislated paid family and domestic violence leave, guaranteeing 10 days paid leave for all workers who are experiencing violence and need to escape. Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT all offer 10 days paid domestic violence leave to their public service employees, whilst South Australia offers 15 days and Victoria 20.

Many employers also provide paid family and domestic violence leave to their workforce through their enterprise agreements. More than 1,000 enterprise agreements approved under the Fair Work Act between 1 January 2016 and 30 June 2017 provide for 10 or more days of paid domestic and family violence leave. These include flagship companies such as Carlton & United Breweries, Telstra, the National Australia Bank, Virgin Australia, IKEA and Qantas. These employers are to be congratulated, as they have paved the way and helped reduce the stigma that often accompanies domestic and family violence.

The union movement is to be congratulated for its campaign for paid family and domestic violence leave over many years and for its role in negotiating domestic leave coverage in Australian workplaces. Labor knows that many small businesses, where employers and employees have close working relationships, already provide the important support for staff to take paid leave to deal with the consequences of domestic violence. We know that, in addition to the terrible personal and social cost of domestic violence, it is a significant cost to business. In May 2016, KPMG estimated the cost of violence against women and their children on production and on the business sector at $1.9 billion for 2015-16.

Labor has listened to victims. Labor has listened to front-line workers, businesses, unions and organisations who are at the forefront of domestic violence prevention. Their clear message is that people who have experienced domestic violence need more support in the workplace. We all benefit from a range of social supports. Social isolation creates and perpetuates many problems, including psychological and physical health issues. For some women, their workplace provides a vital support mechanism. Work colleagues and empathetic employers may be the most important support they can receive in this situation. They can also provide an important oasis away from conflict.

The government's response, whilst welcomed, has its shortfalls. I'm concerned, yet again, that this bill is 'too little, too late' from a government which is increasingly seen as completely out of touch. The Liberals do not support paid domestic violence leave; they should do so. This parliament should support paid domestic violence leave. I commend the bill to the House.