23 September 2021

This piece was first published in Canberra Weekly on Thursday 23 September 2021.

The National Women’s Safety Summit held earlier this month comes on the back of eight wasted years by the Liberal Government on issues of women’s safety and economic security, and in particular an inadequate response to the national conversation on these issues this year.

The two-day summit was announced by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison following the brave and tireless advocacy of Australian women, including Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame, and the women who marched in their thousands on Parliament House and in their communities in March this year. There was a moment for change and it seemed we would have the long overdue national conversation about the treatment of women at home, in the workplace and in the community.

I want to thank the many brave women for their advocacy on these issues and I am disappointed that once again Scott Morrison has missed the opportunity to deliver real change and has failed to show any real leadership on the issues of women’s safety and security following the summit, or indeed the allegations relating to his own workplace.

Australia has a deep-seated problem with violence against women. We know that one in four Australian women have experienced violence from an intimate partner and that each week a woman is murdered by her current or former partner. Adding to this, nearly 10,000 women a year are turned away from shelters, and 40 per cent of calls to women’s legal services went unanswered in the past year. Services for women are crying out for support and funding so they can help women in crisis.

In the face of this knowledge and evidence, Scott Morrison missed yet another opportunity at the National Women’s Safety Summit to deliver on the momentum for urgent change and action for women. The summit outcome fails to deliver on what is needed to address the scale of the problem faced by women and is another example of Scott Morrison trying to fix what he sees as a political problem instead of taking serious action on issues.

We should judge the Morrison Government by their actions, not their words. In April, the PM promised to implement the recommendations of the landmark [email protected] report delivered by Kate Jenkins in full. But the very week before the Summit, the Government voted down Labor amendments in the Parliament that would have properly and completely implemented these recommendations, their Bill only nibbling at the edges of the reforms required.

The women of Canberra and Australia need a government that will act urgently to address the issues they are facing. They need a Labor Government that will support women escaping violent relationships and provide women with the housing and economic support they need to secure a safe life by establishing 10 days of paid domestic violence leave and allocating an additional 4,000 units of social housing for women and children experiencing violence, as well as older women on lower incomes. Labor is also committed to supporting all 55 recommendations of the [email protected] report to ensure women are respected and free of sexual harassment at work, including establishing Working Women’s Centres, designed to assist women to navigate workplace issues such as sexual harassment, around the country, and a one-stop shop to assist victims of workplace sexual harassment.

Women must be safe to prosper at home, work and in the community and they need a government that is committed to delivering the urgent change they need. Enough is enough. 

This piece was first published in Canberra Weekly on Thursday 23 September 2021.