Minister Rishworth and Assistant Minister Elliot press conference for the launch of 1800RESPECT SMS launch


Topics: 1800RESPECT SMS launch, Peta Murphy, Online Gambling, NZYQ High Court decision

JUSTINE ELLIOT, ASSISTANT MINSITER FOR THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Good morning, everyone. I'm Justine Elliot – I'm the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. We're here today to launch a new and really important initiative. 1800RESPECT, the text function, is now in place and it's so important for those people that need to access support, counselling or referrals. For those victims of family domestic and sexual violence, they can reach out and call this number and now they can text that number too. Of course that's really important because for some people they may not want to have that discussion on the phone, they may not be able to, or they may be in remote areas. So having this extra capacity to reach out and get that help is so important. And to anyone who may require support, please either call 1800RESPECT, or you can have an online chat, and now you can actually text to get the support that you need. It's now my pleasure to introduce the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you so much Justine. Being able to use an SMS service to contact 1800RESPECT is a really important new avenue for those seeking support for family, domestic and sexual violence. Of course, there might be a number of reasons that people will not call over the phone, or contact through the web chat. That might be they are in an unsafe situation, or they might just have a number of questions they don't feel is worthy of a phone call. This service is so important to ensure that people can reach out, they can reach out in circumstances where it might be safer to use an SMS or that they're not able to access the phone and therefore can instead access SMS or just if they've got questions and things I'd like to know about. Of course, through the soft-test period, we've seen women reach out or that would not have reached out through the other two avenues. So this is really critically important. This SMS service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it is important to get extra information, but also connect with a counsellor. The amount of time you can go back and forth with a counsellor is not limited but there are important safety features designed in this service including the ability to stop the SMSs or indeed if there's a pause in the conversation the SMS will stop. So this is a very important new channel to ensure that people experiencing gender based violence, get the support that they need. I'll now hand over to Colleen from 1800RESPECT to go through some technicalities and then I'll be available to take questions.

COLLEEN BIRCHLEY, HEAD OF 1800RESPECT: Thank you very much Minister. I'm Colleen Birchley, Head of 1800RESPECT which Telstra Health proudly delivers on behalf of the Australian Government. This initiative is so critical as Minister Rishworth said. And it provides an additional, discreet channel for people to be able to contact our service. We know that so many in the community are impacted by domestic, family and sexual violence and having an accessible service is the top priority for us at 1800RESPECT. So this enables people to have their choice of how they contact us, and when they contact us as well with the service being available 24/7. So people are now able to call us, access us by web chat or now text as well.

JOURNALIST: Minister will the service eventually be available in other languages? Is that something you're looking to do after the launch of the English language service?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that translation is available on the phone service. That is really important that support is available in other languages. In terms of other languages on the SMS chat. That is something that Telstra Health would look into and assess what is the need as we move forward. But I need to make the point that translation is available on the phone through the phone line, and we will keep looking at how we ensure that this SMS service is fit for purpose but also that it's meeting people's needs. This will be in addition to next early next year the launch of video conferencing, which is another avenue people will be able to access support from 1800RESPECT.

JOURNALIST: Minister one of Peta Murphy's biggest contributions to public policy debate was the call for a total ban on gambling ads. The three-year phase-in period for that was supposed to begin in December 2023. It's clear the Government has not met that deadline. You've talked around the issue for months but never committed to the principle of a total ban. Wouldn't the best way to honour her memory be to commit to eliminate, and not just reduce the harms of, problem gambling with a total ad ban.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Peta Murphy is a dear friend and a colleague that I worked very closely with and her contribution to public policy was significant. Of course one of the pieces of work that she did was the report into online gambling. We are working through our response to that report. And we will continue to give it due diligence that it deserves. A number of the issues canvassed in that report go to the Commonwealth working with states and territories. I have to say as Minister for the prevention of harm from online gambling, I have already met twice with my ministerial colleagues from states and territories. The previous government had not had a meeting since 2017. So we are continuing to work with our state and territory colleagues about how we might, for some of the joint recommendations, progress those and we will continue to work through the report and give it the attention it deserves.

JOURNALIST: Minister the gambling lobbies are undoubtedly very powerful and the late Peta Murphy said that the partial ban on gambling ads don't work. So would the government be looking towards a full ban eventually of gambling ads?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: My focus as Minister for Social Services is about harm reduction. Our number one priority is harm reduction when it comes to online gambling and ensure that people can get the support when they need, but we reduce harm as well. So I will be working with my ministerial colleagues to look at that through a harm reduction lens and will continue to give that report the diligent attention that it deserves.

JOURNALIST: The Coalition has said Australians are owed an apology, pointing to a fifth person being arrested. Do you believe Australians are owed an apology?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What I would say about the opposition is they seem to be playing politics, and only politics, creating fear and spreading misinformation. Let's be really clear. The opposition had the opportunity to actually get briefing on a range of the legal advice and they had that opportunity on Sunday. They had that opportunity on Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. They failed to take the opportunity to get a briefing on the sensitive legal advice and they continue to spread misinformation. This has been a very difficult issue. It's an issue that was created as a decision by the High Court. We have obviously have taken this issue as a Government very seriously. We've been working very hard to ensure that there are laws in place that stem and address the issues highlighted in the High Court. But my message to the opposition is please don't play politics with this. Please don't try and create misinformation and fear. Get the briefing. There's been a standing offer available to you on the legal issues. It's time you take that up and work together in the national interest, not your own political interest.

JOURNALIST: How did a person with an outstanding warrant against him get released? Whose responsibility was it to check that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I am not able to provide details on any individual cases. But of course, we are working very closely with our state and territory colleagues. This work has started well before the decision of the High Court and I know that both Minister O'Neill and Minister Giles had already started working and they'll continue to do that work in the national interest. And as I said, I call on the opposition to stop playing politics, create fear. Take the offer for a legal briefing on this issue. So that we can all worked together in the national interest.

JOURNALIST: Can the public be confident that these kind of checks have been done for other released detainees?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Public safety has been at the top of the Government's mind when it comes to the results of the decision of the High Court. That is what we've been working towards as a government. We've been working very closely with our state and territory colleagues, and we will continue to put community safety at the forefront of our decision making. Thank you very much.