9.02am | September 07, 2021




SUBJECTS: Women’s Safety Summit; Paid Domestic Violence Leave; Second First Nations COVID-19 death; First Nations communities targets with misinformation. 

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Well, Good Afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming. Today, of course marks the beginning of the National Women's Safety Summit. You'll recall that this summit was hastily announced in an attempt to stem the tide of outrage coming from Australian women – ignored for eight years by this government, and finally saying enough is enough. Well, it is going to take more than a summit to restore trust with Australian women. 

Australian women are tired of being ignored. They're tired of having their concerns belittled, and they are tired of a government that has done very little with its eight years in power to address the very serious issues which are confronting them. I'm not surprised that women like Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins have expressed some cynicism. Yes, these courageous advocates and survivors are participating in the work that the government is doing now. But they make the point that it comes very late. Today, question have been raised about whether stories referenced by the Prime Minister in his speech were used with the permission of the women who told them. I imagined that the Prime Minister would have sought their agreement. That would be the ordinary course of things. But if he has not done so, it does suggest that there's a long way to go, that he has much more to learn about how to properly listen to victim-survivors and use their knowledge and experiences to craft a new pathway for Australians. (INAUDIBLE). 

In just the last week, the Prime Minister has had so many opportunities to provide real and meaningful support for Australians. Last week, we saw the government vote down amendment after amendment after amendments that would have properly implemented the Respect@Work report. Kate Jenkins undertook a landmark report that was compiled after interviews with many, many, many Australian women. It was left languishing on Christian Porter’s desk for a year. It then languished further. And only now has legislation been introduced into the parliament. The Prime Minister said he supported all 55 recommendations. It became very clear in the parliamentary debate that he does not. 

The Prime Minister also passed up the opportunity to support paid domestic violence leave for women.  Labor has for many years supported paid DV leave for women.   Leaving violence is expensive and time consuming. And we know that the best way for a woman to get back on her feet and to start a new life that she deserves, is for her to maintain a connection to her workplace. That's why paid DV leave matters. And it's why the Prime Minister should have voted on it, voted for this important reform last week, when he and his Ministers had the opportunity to do so. 

I finally just want to touch on housing. Some months ago Labor raised concerns that housing was not included on the agenda for the Women’s Safety Summit. The government had the opportunity to rectify this omission, when they rescheduled the summit. They've chosen not to do so. It is baffling. It is very difficult to understand how anyone who had been listening to voices of frontline workers could have overlooked this critical issue.. When I travel around the country it is the number issue that refuges raise with me – the lack of crisis accommodation, the lack of temporary accommodation, and the lack of long-term housing for women and children escaping violence. Labor has strong plan to deliver at least 4000 homes, new social housing for women and children fleeing violence. This is a commitment the government should match. 

LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Look, thank you. Thank you, Jenny. Two more points in terms of the Summit that's being held in Canberra today. And that is that Aboriginal women are calling for a separate plan. Now when you think about the depth of the crisis for Aboriginal women and their children in the violence space, you can understand why there's a call for a for a separate plan and Labor supports that call. The points that Jenny has made are all extremely important, particularly that point about housing. 

I want to make some comments today in relation to the COVID crisis engulfing west and far western New South Wales, which has now crept into the Sydney environment. What we saw, sadly, is a death of another First Nations person in Dubbo based hospital. A seventy-year-old woman from Enngonia which is very close to the Queensland border, and very close to Burke. Enngonia is a tiny community. And it does not have a hospital. It doesn't have a store, and certainly doesn't have a doctor. I asked the question last Friday, and if you asked me with a thought bubble, the government announced 30 communities, that would be some sort of surge capacity for effort in the COVID space in Aboriginal communities. There are more than 30 communities in Australia. And the reason I think it's a thought bubble, is the government cannot articulate where these communities are or even what the criteria is, for qualifying for this so called 30 communities. I asked the government to please be transparent when it comes to where those 30 communities are. 

There is a lot in the media today about vaccine hesitancy. Well vaccine hesitancy comes in place of no decent communication strategy. Vaccine hesitancy comes because it is filling a void, a void that the government should have built and thought about several months ago. 

Can I finish up by just saying that the 30 mobile homes and been rushed out to Wilcannia to me just emphasises the absolute scramble that's going on. If there is an outbreak in another community, do we see the same scramble? And this is a question the government needs to be clear about. take questions now everyone.

JOURNALIST: We’re covering the Women’s Summit today and I was just wondering, there’s a lot of experts and survivors coming together, is there anything concrete that you might hope comes from the Summit? 

MCALLISTER: Yes. Today, from the summit, we would hope that the government would make a commitment to real action. They have had so many opportunities over the last eight years to do so, and they have missed every one. There are key areas where action now would make a world of difference – investment in housing, a commitment to legislate 10 days DV leave and to implement all of the recommendations of the Respect@Work report. These are opportunities that the government should take up and they would make a real difference for women.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister said he believed Australia had a problem. Australia had in many ways, advanced in many ways too that many women still feel unsafe in Australia. Do you agree with the sentiments of that, that there is still what he's pointed to quite serious cultural problem in Australia?

MCALLISTER: Australia is confronting an epidemic of violence against women. And women are raising their voices and saying they have had enough. We need sustained action at a national level to tackle the scourge of violence. Sadly, that has been lacking over the last eight years. There has been little urgency, little sense of ambition. Now is the moment when we are looking for real leadership, real political leadership from the Prime Minister. And it will take more than just words – it will take action to lead a process of change. 


MCALLISTER: This is a period where Australian women are raising their voices in a way, I have not seen in my adult life. And it is an enormous opportunity for our country. We know that if women are safe, if they are supported in their workplaces, if they are safe at home, we can have a country which is truly equal, And this ought to be our goal. Nothing less. Australian women are asking for true equality and this is an opportunity for the political class to respond. I hope that the Prime Minister means the words that he has said this morning. He has have a real opportunity to improve the lives of Australian women. 


BURNEY: The question about rollout in Aboriginal communities, particularly in regional NSW is a real question. I do not think that there is demonstrated capacity to meet what is an emerging crisis in regional Australia. The death of the woman from Enngonia is symptomatic of what’s going on in the regions. I mean, I've been to Enngonia it is a long way away. It has no resources.  And I have been calling for days now for a demonstrative evacuation plan and asked me the question about capacity of hospitals. There cannot be a mad scramble every time there's an outbreak in regional Australia. If that's the, if that's the approach, then we're going to see more tragedy.