ABC AM interview

E&OE

SABRA LANE:

Yesterday, we brought you the story about a federal parliamentary inquiry into family violence that handed up its final report three months early and without taking public submissions or holding hearings. It was set up in the wake of the horrendous murder of Queensland mother Hannah Clarke and her three children by her estranged husband. Anne Ruston is the Families and Social Services Minister. Anne Ruston, Good morning and welcome to AM.

MINISTER RUSTON:

Good morning.

SABRA LANE:

Many groups ranging from the Law Council to anti-domestic violence campaigners were disappointed by the inquiry. Some say it was an abject failure. Did you think it was a good example of democracy at work for the people?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well I have to say Sabra I was probably as surprised as anyone that the committee held an inquiry without taking any submissions. I think we probably all understand the difficulty of hearings. But obviously it's a matter for the Committee to explain their decisions.

SABRA LANE:

Would you be keen to see another inquiry? Because I see that Julie Collins from Labor tweeted late last night that Labor will move to establish an inquiry into family violence when the Senate resumes.

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well I'm quite happy and I think the more light that you can shine on this issue of family violence, which is an absolute scourge on our society, the better. I probably would further note that I was surprised initially when the hearing was actually referred through to the Legal and Constitutional Committee, which I thought was a strange committee for something that is such an issue for social policy, which I would have thought better considered under the Community Affairs Committee. So if somebody wanted to refer something to that committee, I think you probably will find that they will get a much better outcome than they perhaps did sending it to this committee.

SABRA LANE:

That's a pretty weak excuse, isn't it? I know that many people have used that reasoning. The moment the inquiry was raised in Parliament, people could have had the opportunity straightaway to refer it to that committee.

MINISTER RUSTON:

Look I wasn't making excuses, Sabra, I was just suggesting that if they did decide and I'm more than happy for the inquiry, I welcome any inquiry into this issue, because I say it's just an extraordinary blight on our society that we have the kind of domestic violence rates. And I'm not defending what happened. What I'm saying is that I think it would be more appropriately referred to the Community Affairs Committee.

SABRA LANE:

The report that it did hand down seemed to indicate that the current approaches aren't working as quickly as expected, saying that the Commonwealth in partnership with the state and territory governments should closely examine whether it is simply a matter of waiting for current efforts to bear fruit or whether a new approach is needed. Are you going to wait knowing that if the right approach, this isn't the right approach, more lives could be lost?

MINISTER RUSTON:

I think it's a dual response. We certainly have got a number of things that are already on the go that we are hoping are going to provide some change in behaviours. But at the same time we are continually looking for new ways because there's two issues here. One is obviously the response to people who find themselves victims of domestic violence and making sure the appropriate support systems are there so that that people can get the help they need. But the more critical issue in all this is making sure that we actually change people's behaviour so that we actually can start preventing domestic violence happening in the first place. And it's that second part that I think is proving to be so challenging. You know, I don't think anybody's got a silver bullet, if anybody has one that can actually deal with this issue I think we would all be absolutely delighted to hear it. Governments by themselves and a whole heap of money is not going to solve the problem of changing people's behaviour.

SABRA LANE:

We're nearly at the end of a 12-year strategy on domestic violence. The evidence indicates that violence in intimate partner relationships has not decreased since 2005 and sexual violence against women has not decreased since 1996. Isn't it time to do things differently?

MINISTER RUSTON:

I think if you look at the period of time since we have been actively and openly focusing on domestic violence and its prevention, I think in the first instance you probably saw a lot of people who otherwise had not been coming out naturally saying anything about domestic violence, all of a sudden felt empowered to do so. So I think in the early stages, particularly, and probably for a long period of time, we saw an increase in figures because people were actually coming out and talking about it. But I think that time is now over and we do need to start addressing those issues. As I said, it's about prevention we can, you know, obviously we need to keep dealing with the response but it is the prevention and actually making people have more respectful attitudes towards women, particularly. And that's why a lot of the work that we've been doing, particularly through Our Watch, about teaching young people that respectful behaviour starts very early. This is about telling children that respectful behaviour is something that they absolutely need to embed in their everyday lives.

SABRA LANE:

The Government has talked about a snapback for JobSeeker. If that does happen, it will coincide with the end of the six-month eviction ban on- and mortgage pauses. All of those things happening at once, sounds like it could be hugely problematic. How worried are you by that?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Look, obviously there is a very, very careful strategy that needs to be put in place over the coming months as the economy reopens and we'll start to try get back to normal. It's going to be a very dedicated and detailed program that shows the sequencing of when we make changes and it's all got to be based on the opening up of the economy. I mean obviously this morning, seeing Seek come out and say that they're already starting to see jobs being advertised, is a very positive early sign. But I think right now we're just monitoring what's happening on a day to day basis and I think we don't need to get ahead of ourselves but just look at what's happening and let's do this in a properly sequenced way.

SABRA LANE:

Anne Ruston thanks for joining AM this morning.

MINISTER RUSTON:

My pleasure. Thanks Sabra.

SABRA LANE:

That's Anne Ruston, the Families and Social Services Minister.

ENDS