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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3788

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (11:36): At the completion of this speech, I'll be heading to the launch of the Labor women's budget statement. One of the key areas of policy leadership is in our commitment to support victims of domestic and family violence. We all know about the harm caused by domestic and family violence around Australia and we all know the horrific statistics. It never gets any easier to read them out, but I think it's important to remind people that, in 2017 alone, 45 women were killed through domestic violence. It is the leading cause of death, disability and illness among women 15 to 44 years of age. One in six women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner since the age of 15, and on average one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. And we know that men can also be the victims of domestic and family violence. In the Northern Territory, between 2010 and 2014, nine per cent of all Territorians were victims of domestic violence. We have a serious problem in the Territory with domestic violence. Nine out of 10 of those people were Aboriginal, with Aboriginal women the victims in eight out of 10 cases. Obviously more needs to be done.

I recently met with Anna Davis and Rachael Uebergang from the NT Working Women's Centre and got an update on the important work that they are doing for women in the Territory. I've also spoken with other organisations, such as the YMCA and the YWCA, about the services that they provide to all victims of domestic and family violence. The Working Women's Centre stressed the importance of not only legislating paid domestic violence leave but also equipping employers with the knowledge and capacity to properly support employees experiencing domestic or family violence, as in some cases employers have been found to inadvertently and unintentionally compound their employees' suffering during these most difficult of times. The Working Women's Centre made the important point that, while workplace policies cannot solve domestic violence, employers have an important role in mitigating the harm and should know their policies and be able to implement them effectively. There is a gap in resources to support workplaces introducing domestic and family violence leave and to help employers to implement their policies. They suggested that the reintroduction of the Safe at Home, Safe at Work program could be part of the solution, and I think it is a suggestion that should be explored further. After all, apart from being a social issue, family violence is an industrial issue, which in four years time could cost the Australian economy an estimated $15.6 billion per year.

I do note the government's efforts in combating family violence, and I will support any worthy initiative. However, their commitment to just 40 hours of unpaid leave is simply not enough. I can say with confidence that the electorate I represent, Solomon, which is Darwin and Palmerston, was pleased to hear that a Shorten-Plibersek Labor government would legislate 10 days of paid domestic and family violence leave in the National Employment Standards. This leave can provide valuable time for victims to seek legal advice, access counselling services and access medical treatment, without compounding a victim's fear of losing employment or valuable income that they need, regardless of whether they are a man or a woman. They need that valuable income to support themselves and their families. This should not be seen as a cost on business or an additional burden for employers. For businesses, including additional domestic violence leave as a workplace right will prevent loss of productivity, will increase employee retention and will reduce unpredictable absenteeism.

Labor is also committed to reforming the Family Law Act 1975 to prevent victims of domestic violence being cross-examined in court by their abusers. The fact that in 2018 a perpetrator of domestic violence can subject their victim to hostile questioning in a courtroom is a disgrace. Labor has committed to providing $88 million over two years for a new safe housing fund to increase transitional housing options for vulnerable people escaping domestic and family violence. We must all stand up against domestic and family violence. It's an issue that affects us all.