Doorstop to discuss the Women’s Safety Taskforce meeting held today with state and territory ministers

E&OE...

ANNE RUSTON: 

The consultation for the National plan to end violence against women and their children will commence tonight. We'll be looking at new and emerging issues that have now become an issue with domestic violence in the last 10 years. Things like coercive power, tech facilitated abuse, and particularly looking at the impact of domestic violence on children. We'll also be drawing on the experience of the current plan, and making sure that we continue to work with our most vulnerable people. Particularly our diverse communities. And making sure that the next plan is informed by the lived experience of people who have experienced domestic violence. 

Today, we start the consultation process. As part of that process, there will be a number of consultation elements. Including, opening tonight, a national online survey where any Australian can have input into the next plan and provide us with information about their experience. So anyone who wants to commence or to be part of that process can go on to www.engage.dss.gov.au and they can participate in this consultation process. Another element of the program is the National Women's Safety Summit. And I'm pleased to announce that that summit will be held on 29 and 30 July this year. As part of that summit, we'll be looking at a number of issues we need to inform the next plan, and making sure that we get as many people together - as many stakeholders - so the next plan is informed by voices of all Australians. This plan needs to be a very ambitious plan. We need to make sure that we move from just reducing violence against women and their children to ending violence against women and their children. We must have a goal towards zero, and the next plan will be an ambitious blueprint to stop the rot that is domestic violence across our national landscape. Thank you. 

QUESTION: 

Is there any discussion about funding in today's meeting? You had services out this morning saying women will die if they continue to be turned away from frontline services. This is an urgent problem that needs urgent funding, how much longer will people have to wait to see that funding? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Well, the Morrison Government has provided the single largest commitment to supporting domestic violence services and women who are experiencing domestic violence of any government ever. $340 million has been allocated against the Fourth Action Plan, the Action Plan currently in place for the three years, from 2019 to 2022. In addition to that, $150 million was made available last year to respond to the COVID pandemic, understanding that at times of crisis women are more likely to suffer domestic violence and we see spikes in domestic violence. 

QUESTION: 

The $150 million is due to expire in June, I think, is my understanding. Will that be renewed? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

The $150 million that was made available last year was paid directly to state and territories for them to be able to respond to the demands in their individual states and territories. The last information that I have is that not all of the money has been spent. And I'm very much looking forward to receiving the information from the states and territories about how much of that funding has been spent, and also to receiving the data around where the demand has been for increased services to make sure that whatever we do into the future is targeted at initiatives that address the demand areas. 

QUESTION: 

So were the states unable to tell you today how much of that $150 million remains unspent? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Although, they did commit today to provide that information to me as soon as possible. 

QUESTION: 

And would that then be used to inform the budget? Any new budget measures? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Well certainly. I mean, obviously I'm gathering a lot of information in relation to the many aspects of domestic violence that we are looking at at the moment. But we're not in a position to pre-empt anything that might be in the budget. But certainly I'm very keen to get that information so that we can make sure that programs in the future are targeted to areas of greatest need. 

QUESTION: 

Was there any discussion around increasing support for women on temporary visas? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

We have been discussing that particular issue. And I would hope to be able to have more to say about that in the couple of days after the communique's been settled with state and territories. 

QUESTION: 

On the national summit, there are growing calls from your colleagues here and now from Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland to expand it to take in gender inequality, superannuation, the gender pay gap. Should the Morrison Government consider facilitating a bigger summit than one that focuses just on women's safety? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Well, the summit that we are talking about is a women's safety summit. Its principal purpose as it was originally intended back last year when we said that we were going to have a summit, which unfortunately wasn't able to go ahead because of COVID, was around informing the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and their Children. But the scope of the summit is obviously something that we will be in consultation with the state and territories over coming months. But it's very focused around women's safety, and making sure that we have the best possible information base to be able to inform the next plan. 

QUESTION: 

Would you be in favour of a second summit, though, a broader summit that Annastacia Palaszczuk is flagging? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Look, certainly the issue of this particular summit is very focused around a single goal that we want to achieve, and that's informing the next plan. And so that's what my focus is on at the moment. And that's what I'm I announcing today, that we are pleased that the dates have now been settled so we can work towards making sure that we build a summit that allows us to explore all of the issues that affect women's safety in Australia. 

QUESTION: 

Can you talk us through the decision to ask the public to make submissions as part of this process? I mean, obviously you've had an eight-month inquiry into family sexual and domestic violence, where you've heard from experts in this field as to what needs to be done. What's the reasoning for opening it up to the public now? And what are you hoping to find out? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Well, of course, all the information that was contained in that eighth-month inquiry will be very valuable for the development of the next plan. But we wanted to say to any Australian, as we go out and say that we are starting this formal consultation process specifically on the plan, if you want to have your say, there is a mechanism by which you can do it. Some people may prefer the anonymity of being able to go online and just fill out a survey as opposed to actually making a formal submission to a committee. So, we just want to make sure that we give every single Australian the opportunity to have their voice heard as we move towards the next plan. Because, as I said, it must be a very ambitious plan, and we need to be able to inform the plan and the voices of every Australian need to have the opportunity to be heard. 

QUESTION: 

One of the things that that committee looked at was the use of anonymous accounts online to bully and harass women. Andrew Laming, who remains in the Coalition party room has been operating 

more than 30 accounts which he has used to attack his opponents, sometimes quite aggressively. He's now under investigation by the AEC. Are you sure that he remains a fit and proper person to sit in the Coalition party room? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

I think one of the things that is very important is that Mr Laming goes and had a very serious think about the implications of his actions on other people. And obviously I will leave the investigation to the AEC, to them. But one of the things we do need to do is we need everybody who is a perpetrator, we need to get them to understand the impact of their actions on other people. And so I think one of the clear messages that we want is that every Australian needs to reflect on their actions, because governments alone can't solve this problem. The only way that we are ever going to end violence against women and their children is if every Australian takes a role in stamping this scourge out. 

QUESTION: 

How is it tenable, though, that he remains your Liberal colleague? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Well, as I said, I think Mr Laming needs to have a very, very sound think about the actions and the implications- 

QUESTION: 

Does that mean you'd like him to go? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Look, I think we need to give Mr Laming a couple of weeks to reflect on that. And I will be very interested in his response when he returns from that time of reflection. 

QUESTION: 

What do you think about his behaviour in operating these Facebook pages? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Well, I think everybody in Australia thinks what he has done is abhorrent. 

QUESTION: 

Minister, there have been calls for the Federal Government to coordinate action on coercive control, with some states all sort of going their own way. Was that something that was discussed? Is that something that the Commonwealth will be doing in terms of criminalising coercive control or at least taking on a leadership role in regards to that? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Look, I think the Federal Government's very keen to take a leadership role in all elements that impact on women's safety. And coercive control is certainly something that is one of the matters that we would like to consider as part of the development of the next plan. We have been working with the states and territories for some time, and I acknowledge the huge amount of work that's been done by New South Wales, because of course, whilst the Federal Government can take a leadership role in this, it is actually the states and territories that legislate much of the action in order to be able to deal with this issue. They have the levers. But it is very much something that we think should be considered. 

QUESTION: 

And just finally, on ERO funding going forward, is that something that the Commonwealth has committed to provide states? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

We're working through the issue of the ERO funding that you refer to. 

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: 

Last question, guys. 

QUESTION: 

back on the inquiry, one of the recommendations around tech-based abuse was that people who maintain or start a new social media account should have to provide 100 points of ID to that platform. Do you think that will be a sensible or sort of feasible suggestion? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

Look, I certainly think tech-facilitated abuse is a major, major issue in domestic violence. Unquestionably. And the anonymity of some of those accounts, I think allows people a level of bravery that perhaps they wouldn't have if they had to be identified. I think it is definitely an issue that we should be investigating. 

QUESTION: 

But would you support having to provide 100 points of ID to create a Facebook account? 

ANNE RUSTON: 

As I said, I think the consultation process is exactly about this, is being able to have all these issues, put them on the table, discuss them, and so that the next national plan can be informed by that discussion. Thanks, everyone. 

[ENDS]