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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9182

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (18:31): I rise to make some comments on the report from the Finance and Public Administration References Committee on domestic violence in Australia that came down in August this year, which I know Senator Bilyk has asked be continued. As you would remember, Mr President, there were 25 recommendations from that committee and the first was:

The committee supports victims of domestic and family violence having access to appropriate leave provisions which assist them to maintain employment and financial security while attending necessary appointments such as court appearances and seeking legal advice. The Commonwealth government should investigate ways to implement this across the private and public sector.

I am pleased to say that this week, which is the week in which we acknowledge White Ribbon Day, the Labor opposition under Mr Shorten has introduced a policy that Labor will introduce a form of paid domestic and family violence leave. Five days is the proposal that we put up in our policy to put that form of leave into the National Employment Standards. That would make sure that this would be a national minimum for all employees covered by the national workplace relations system.

We responded in our committee, and now I am very pleased to say that Labor, as an opposition and as a future government, has made a direct response to the evidence that we heard in depth in our committee. We heard extraordinarily powerful evidence from a range of people who had been caught up in the horrors of domestic violence that pointed out the importance of having employment and to having the security of employment for financial security. Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, whom we all acknowledge, said:

The ability to maintain your employment, keep your job, it helps secure somewhere to live, it helps you to have that ongoing working contact with your colleagues, it's a really important part of your journey.

We also heard evidence from Ms Jodie Woodrow of RiSE Queensland—a woman I have worked with over many years, who has dedicated herself to working with victims of family violence and also to working through the range of issues in that case. As a person who has been through that journey herself, she said:

I had to stay on welfare because of the number of occasions I had to go to court. If you expect a woman to make an application to go through court and go through 12 mentions before she even gets to trial—in my case, it was four years, two Family Court report writers and multiple appointments—

My own comment is that that is a whole range of other issues which we have to address as a government and as a parliament to ensure that women should not have to go through that complexity of Family Court to achieve some kind of security and settlement. Now I will go back to Ms Woodrow's own comments:

… you cannot expect her to work at the same time. So we have to question mark how we expect women to be employed and deal with crises at the same time. In my case, my perpetrator would sabotage my attempts to go to work.

That leads to another aspect, where we know that sometimes workplaces are not safe places for women who are caught up in domestic violence. We have seen too many cases recently in the public eye where, through a breakdown, a perpetrator has gone to the workplace and has done damage to their ex-partner and also to other members of that workplace. Workplaces per se need to establish their own plans of action so that they can ensure their employees are kept safe.

I know that many strong workplaces have done that. When Mr Shorten was announcing our policy he drew attention to workplaces such as Telstra, NAB, Virgin Australia, IKEA and Blundstone boots, which between them have provided domestic violence leave and domestic violence plans in their own workplaces for their own employees. They have acknowledged that providing this opportunity for their workers is not an economic burden for their workplace. They are acknowledging the needs of workers, and are themselves putting in place something that is valuable to the whole workplace.

I want to pay tribute to the numbers of women and men in the union movement who have maintained the pressure through our domestic violence reporting process, through the processes within the ACTU and through the Labor national conference to ensure that we have not moved away from any commitment around domestic violence leave. We heard from Ms Veronica Black, the National Coordinator Organising and Development of the FSU—the Finance Sector Union of Australia—who talked about the incredible importance of women being able to maintain economic independence in order to give them the best chance of being able to escape from a violent situation.

Also, in the ACTU's submission, and it became their national policy, is this:

Paid domestic violence leave is designed to assist victims of domestic violence to remain in paid employment, support them through the process of escaping violence and to promote safe and secure workplaces for them and their work colleagues.

…   …   …

Paid domestic violence leave recognises that it is largely women, who, as a result of the violence, are more likely to have broken employment histories, have insufficient paid leave accumulated and can least afford to take unpaid leave at a time where financial security is critical.

It is very important that we, as a nation, continue to work to respond to the overwhelming impact of family violence in our community. Bringing forward a policy such as this one is not a result in itself. We know there must be many more coordinated actions to respond to the various issues that have become quite clear as we look at the issues of family violence in our country.

I am very proud that the Labor Party have now brought out our policy on paid domestic violence leave. We are picking also that the issue of family and domestic violence leave is listed in Australia's strategic framework, The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, as a national priority to reduce the impact of family and domestic violence. It is important to note that the Minister Porter has gone on record this week to say it is worth having a very good look at this issue.

It would be a valuable outcome of White Ribbon 2015 if we could have an agreed approach to ensure that our workplaces support women and men who are working through the issues of family violence and also that we make sure that we keep all of our families safe. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted.