Minister Ruston doorstop interview, Adelaide

E&OE…

MINISTER RUSTON:

We are really delighted today to have announced the formation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council which will inform the next National Plan to end violence against women and their children. We are very pleased that they will be able to provide advice not only on the Plan but also on Closing the Gap Target 13, which seeks to close the gap of violence against Indigenous women by 50 per cent by 2031. This group is going to be chaired by Professor Sandra Creamer who is the chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance. She will be supported by 12 other members of this group with a range of experience from health, education, specialist family violence services for women and special advice on children. We are doing this because unfortunately we have a very high rate of violence against Indigenous women and children that is very disproportionate to the rates of violence we see against non-Indigenous women. And we thank very much all the members of this committee who are prepared to come forward and provide us advice on this as we work towards a very, very important target of ending all violence against women and their children.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to make a brief update on the Commonwealth support payments that are being made in New South Wales, the three types of payments available to people who find themselves in lockdown in New South Wales. The first is the COVID-19 Disaster Payment for people who reside or work in Commonwealth declared hotspots. These payments are for people who are working over 20 hours per week - $500 per week and those working less than 20 hours per week - $325 per week. These are for people who have lost work as a result of the lockdown. There is also the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment which is available for people who have been instructed to isolate by a relevant medical authority and are unable to go to work or are caring for someone who has been required to isolate, and that payment is $1,500 per fortnight. The third payment is available to people on working age payments or social security payments who are in the same circumstances as those who are eligible for the Pandemic Leave Payment. That is they have been instructed to isolate by an authority or are caring for someone who has been instructed to isolate. So far the COVID-19 Disaster Payment has been granted to more than 33,000 people in New South Wales of which 28,870 have been made to people who are working more than 20 hours per week. And 4,600 payments have been made to people who are working less than 20 hours per week. The first LGA areas that had been declared in lockdown will become eligible for their second payment on the 8th of July. About 4,000 people in NSW have been granted the Pandemic Leave Payment and majority of those have been granted in this most recent lockdown. And in terms of Crisis Payments over 2,100 people were granted Crisis Payment because they were required to isolate because they had been looking after someone who had to isolate or had to isolate themselves as part of the lockdown.

JOURNALIST:

How exactly will this Council address domestic violence and what will it do?

MINISTER RUSTON:

One of the main reasons we have set up this Council is because we understand that Indigenous women often have different factors that contribute to the high level of domestic violence that they find themselves in. So we want to make sure that we hear firsthand from experts who understand the particular issues around domestic violence in Indigenous communities and Indigenous women so that we are actually advised by people who are specialists in the field.

JOURNALIST:

Do you have any statistics on how much more prominent it is in our Indigenous community as opposed to non-Indigenous community?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Yes, the level of violence in Indigenous communities is particularly highlighted by the fact that Indigenous women are 11 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence than non-Indigenous women. We see the severity of violence against Indigenous women is something of particular concern to us and we are hoping by trying to address the specific issues that Indigenous women are confronted with so that we can tailor our programs and our initiatives that we put in place so that we are addressing the specific issues that they are confronted with.

JOURNALIST:

Former Liberal MP Julia Banks has accused Scott Morrison of menacing and controlling behaviour. What is your response to that?

MINISTER RUSTON:

This government takes workplace safety very seriously, and absolutely everyone in Australia has the right to not only be safe in their workplace but to feel safe in their workplace and that is no different to Parliament House. That is why we have already put in place a number of measures to make sure that anyone who finds themselves in a position where they wish to report an incident that they are able to get confidential and independent access to support. There is a 1800 number that has already been put in place in the Parliament and also the Government has moved to make sure that MPs, Senators and all of their staff have face to face education about understanding what a respectful workplace needs to look like.

JOURNALIST:

What’s your response to allegations a Cabinet Minister sexually harassed her?

MINISTER RUSTON:

I don’t know anything about those allegations. I know no more than you do from what I have read or heard in the media over the last 24 hours.

JOURNALIST:

The incident occurred under Malcolm Turnbull‘s Government, why didn’t she complain to him at the time and why won’t she name the MP?

MINISTER RUSTON:

I think those are questions you should be putting to Ms Banks.

JOURNALIST:

Are you aware of any inappropriate behaviour like that from your male colleagues?

MINISTER RUSTON:

I have no knowledge of inappropriate behaviour but I do know that all of my colleagues in Cabinet are very supportive of the actions that have been taken by this Prime Minister to make sure that we make Parliament House an absolutely Australian-best-practice when it comes to a safe workplace.

JOURNALIST:

Is the Liberal Party welcoming towards women?

MINISTER RUSTON:

I believe the Liberal party is very welcoming towards women. Obviously I can speak from my own experience and I’ve always felt entirely welcome and respected in my workplace both here in South Australia and also in Canberra.

JOURNALIST:

The Coalition’s primary vote has dropped among women voters. Why do you think that is?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well obviously we will work to continue to give confidence to all women, whether they be working women in Parliament House or women around Australia, that this Government takes very, very seriously our commitment to workplace safety and to women’s safety. Only in the recent Budget $1.1 billion has been allocated to programs to support women’s safety, the highest level of commitment that has ever been made by any government towards women’s safety.

JOURNALIST:

The Prime Minister said he wanted a woman running in Bowman to replace Andrew Laming, you’ve ended up with Henry Pike. Are you satisfied with that?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well obviously that’s a matter for the preselectors of Bowman, they have made a decision over who they want to run in their electorate at the next election.

JOURNALIST:

Are you disappointed it wasn’t a woman?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Obviously I am very keen that I’m encouraging, as I’m sure my other colleagues are, that women have got the pathway to be able to go into the Parliament and I would encourage everybody in the Liberal Party and across the broad to make sure we are selecting the best candidate. But at the end of the day, in the Liberal Party, the decision is made the branch or by the people in the electorate and they have made a decision and I respect that.

[ENDS]