Interview on Sunday Agenda with Andrew Clennell


Topics: Family and domestic violence, Enough is Enough Rally, Commonwealth Rent Assistance, assistance for Ukraine

ANDREW CLENNELL, HOST: Joining me live now is the Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth. Amanda Rishworth, thanks so much for your time. Let's start with this issue of domestic violence. Do you think there might be more funding in the Budget to deal with this? Is there more the Commonwealth can do? And my understanding is there aren't plans for a National Royal Commission at this stage. Can you confirm that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Firstly, I would say that of women and men right around the country are frustrated and angry about the unacceptable levels of family, domestic and sexual violence in this country. It is absolutely unacceptable that we are seeing the levels as they are. In terms of the Commonwealth response we have – and really, from the beginning of becoming Minister, one of my first jobs was to work with states and territories to put together our National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. That is signed up by both the Commonwealth and the states and territories. That's been accompanied by an Action Plan and $2.3 billion of investments in programs and responses to domestic, family and sexual violence. That is a record amount of funding put in to back our plan up, so there is significant funding. Many of those programs are starting to roll out and we'll start to see the benefits of those. The benefits of these programs won't be seen for some time. I'll give you one example. There is a program that we are looking at that we're about to roll out that is intervening for adolescent boys who may have experienced family and domestic violence as children, and actually intervening and supporting them so that they don't become perpetrators into the future. Now, the results of that will take some time, but investment is being made now. Of course, we'll always look at what more we can do and what more we can contribute to, but there has been a real significant investment. We have a National Plan, and it is a relatively new National Plan. We now have to have both consistent and persistent, and sustained efforts towards that Plan.

ANDREW CLENNELL: But no plans for a National Royal Commission?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We have a National Plan in place and we have Action Plans agreed to with states and territories. But importantly, victim survivors and many, many experts had input into that National Plan and so we believe we need to get on with the job. We have a Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner and Commission that our Government stood up. That role is incredibly important in monitoring. We believe we just need to continue to have this sustained effort. We believe that is what will make the difference.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Those who attended the Enough is Enough rally in Sydney yesterday asked the PM to call this a national emergency. Do you believe it is a national emergency?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think it has been a crisis for some time. I have been dealing with this issue every day that I have been Minister for Social Services. We are seeing far too high rates, and this has been persistent for some time. So, while we need to treat this with seriousness and I understand that, our Government and our Prime Minister has agreed with Premiers that this should be put on the National Cabinet agenda. What we need is this effort to be sustained long term. That is the challenge here. For this not to become an issue in the news cycle for a short period  that then we forget about sustained effort in all the areas of prevention, early intervention, response and healing and recovery. That is the way that we are going to turn this around.

ANDREW CLENNELL: You're attending the Canberra rally today, which is calling for no more violence against women – enough is enough – as is the PM. Who are the organisers? What prompts you to attend, I guess, and lend your support?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I have been listening to so many people, over a number of years now and the frustration, the anger that people have about violence against women. One of the key things being raised in these rallies is that this is not a women's problem. I think too often we frame this problem through a women's problem, women need to fix this. But really, this is a men's violence problem. So one of the key areas that is being called for is to share the responsibility. Another important message is this is everyone's responsibility. No one government, no one institution, no one organisation is going to change this. This requires everyone – individuals, organisations, governments, to take responsibility and for example, for an individual to call out violent behaviour if they see it, to call out disrespectful attitudes to women. This is what is at the heart of what has been called for and an expression, really, of the frustration and anger that we are still seeing. Too many women die at the hands of an intimate or former partner. Too many women are scared to walk the streets. It's just enough. I look forward to joining with many people, gathering around the country to express that as well.

ANDREW CLENNELL: And you talk about institutions having to do their bit. Do you have any criticism for the registrar who let the man out who's alleged to have murdered Molly Ticehurst? Are the courts tough enough on domestic violence?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: One of the areas in our Action Plan is about improving the justice responses for domestic and family violence and the police responses. So, this is a really important ongoing piece of work. While I don't know the specific details of that exact case, we know that more work needs to be done to ensure that women are safe. One of the areas that we have been doing some work in is a National Risk Assessment Framework for perpetrators. I did hear the NSW Police Commissioner talk about a risk assessment for victim survivors, but it is also important that we have risk assessments that judicial systems can use, police can use, other organisations and services that can use, that identifies the risk of perpetration. So that's another really important piece of work. But there's certainly more reform that needs to be done and that is why it is one of our ten action items under the National Plan.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Turning now to the Federal Budget, there have been calls for a further increase in Commonwealth Rental Assistance because we've seen rents go up by so much. Are you and the Treasurer inclined to deliver on this? Last year you increased at 15 per cent. Could we see a similar increase?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: As the Treasurer said this week, the final cost of living measures are still being finalised as part of the Budget process. But we do know, of course, people are experiencing high rental stress, and that is why in the last Budget, we did increase Commonwealth Rental Assistance to the highest levels that it had been increased to in 30-years. Now, we know that is not the silver bullet to rental stress, but it has had not only a positive impact for the million people that do actually access it, but it had a role in moderating the increases in rents that would have occurred if it hadn't been for our rent assistance. This is also the case when it comes to energy relief and childcare support. So we will, of course, look at all cost of living measures, but when it comes to rental stress, the other key element of this is supply and the Commonwealth has taken a lead in putting $25 billion into areas that help with supply of more housing in this country. That is a pretty significant record investment and we'll continue to work on these issues. So, these are all matters that are being finalised as part of the Budget process. But our record, in terms of providing cost of living relief that has not added to our inflation problem and has actually helped moderate inflation, is on the public record.

ANDREW CLENNELL: And just finally, Amanda Rishworth, the Ukraine assistance announced overnight. Is this new funding or does it come from existing defence funding? You've got the Opposition saying you should give them Taipans as well, you should give them coal, that the Government's not doing enough.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Opposition continues to play politics with what should be a national, unified voice of our unwavering, steady support for the Ukraine. This is $100 million that we are providing to provide a range of different items, whether it's personal protective equipment or indeed some aerial capability. This is really an important investment and takes our defence investment for the Ukraine to $880 million. This is a significant level of support by the Australian Government and we will continue to do what we can to support the efforts in Ukraine and demonstrate our commitment, our steadfast commitment to the efforts of the Ukrainian people.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth. Thanks so much for your time.