Australian Government coat of arms

Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

Transcript of joint press conference: Women’s Safety Package to Stop the Violence

24 September 2015

Melbourne

Prime Minister

Minister for Women

E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm here with my colleague the Minister for Women and also the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash. And with Ken Lay and Rosie Batty, who are the chair and deputy chair respectively of the COAG panel on reducing violence against women. An initiative, I should note, that was set up by my predecessor Tony Abbott, whose commitment to the objectives that we're announcing or the objectives we're seeking to address today has shown great leadership for Australia.

Now, violence against women is one of the great shames of Australia. It is a national disgrace. Already this year, 63 women have been killed by their partners or a family member. In New South Wales, in the last three days, three women have been killed in these circumstances and one baby. Three incidents in three days. This is a disgrace.

Now, the challenge that we face is addressing the consequences of this violence and making women, as the Minister said earlier today, safer on the streets, safer at home, and safer on-line. And the initiatives which collectively totalled more than $100 million, that Michaelia will take you through in a moment, seek to do that. But let me say to you that there is, in addition to combatting violence against women, there is a huge challenge that we must address, which encompasses this and of which domestic violence, violence against women is but a symptom.

Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women. We, as leaders, as a government, must make it and we will make it a clear national objective of ours to ensure that Australia is more respecting of women. Women must be respected. Disrespecting women is unacceptable. It is unacceptable at every level. At home, at the workplace, wherever. And I'd say that as parents, one of the most important things we must do is ensure that our sons respect their mothers and their sisters.

Because that is where this begins. It begins - violence against women begins with disrespecting women. And so this is a big cultural shift.

Now, of course, the vast majority of men do respect women. But many do not. And we have to make it as though it was un-Australian to disrespect women. We must become a country which is known for its respect for women.

MICHAELIA CASH: Hear, hear!

PRIME MINISTER: And be proud that we respect women. That is - that is a vital objective that I am determined to ensure my government leads, shows the leadership to be a nation that respects women. Now, there are very big challenges. There's been research done which Michaelia Cash can talk about further, which shows that, for example, one in four young men think it's OK to slap a girlfriend when you've been drinking.

Now, most people, many people would find that shocking. But there it is. There is a lot of work to be done. Respect is absolutely critical. It's no accident that the help line that we're providing additional funding for is called 1800 RESPECT. Rosie and Ken have always understood that at the core of this problem is disrespecting women. Let's make it our resolution that Australia will be known as a nation, as a people, as a society that respects women.

MICHAELIA CASH: Thank you. Thank you, Prime Minister. Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here today in Melbourne with the Prime Minister, with the former chief of the Victorian police, Ken Lay, the chair of the government's advisory panel on domestic violence, and of course, our fantastic Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, who is a deputy chair of the advisory panel, to announce the very first decision of the Turnbull Cabinet, which was to endorse a just over $100 million women's safety package.

The Prime Minister and I have had a lot of chats over the last week in relation to our policy. It is something that I have worked on with Ken and with Rosie and with the Prime Minister for a very long time now and I’m delighted that today we can formally announce it. Can I reassure all Australians that the commitment of this government is, as the Prime Minister has said, that all women in Australia and their children should be safe at home, should be safe on the streets and should be safe online and I hope that is the mission of all of us across Australia because whilst there are any women and children in Australia who are not safe we have not achieved our objective.

In relation to the package that we are announcing today: the package is very much focused on the Commonwealth’s sphere of influence. We obviously work very closely with the states and territories and I’m delighted that this morning I have had a number of my state and territory colleagues, first ministers, call me and say, “Michaelia, we are on board, what can we do to work with the Commonwealth Government to end the scourge of violence against women?”. The package that we’re announcing today has also very much been based on the initial advice that the advisory panel, from Ken and from Rosie, has already provided to COAG.

Ladies and gentlemen, if I could now take you through the women’s safety package, which does total just over $100 million. The first part of the package are practical action items that we can take to keep women and children safe at home because at the end of the day the more that we can keep women and children safe in their own home, where they should be, it means the less we are going to be putting additional pressures on services including refuges. We are going to be funding $17 million towards expanding the successful initiative to keep women safe in their homes like the ‘Safer at Home’ program which basically enables women to get CCTV, to get panic buttons, to get better security systems so that if a perpetrator is trying to break in, the police will be notified. We’re also going to be trialling with the states the GPS technology. A number of states already use live GPS tracking for high risk sex offenders. We don’t see any reason why this GPS tracking technology cannot be used by those people who are going to basically end up, if we’re not careful, killing a woman so that is certainly something we’re going to be looking at. We’re also going to be expanding the already very successful program in relation to the provision of mobile phones. We’re going to now be allocating up to 20,000 mobile phones across Australia to women who need access to technology but the technology they currently have may be compromised. We’re also going to be giving $2 million to MensLine because it is so important that when there are men out there who are putting up their hand and saying “I need help,” that we as a government respond to that so very much the first part of our package responds to keeping women safe at home.

The second part of our package is very much informed by much of the advocacy of Rosie Batty and that is in relation to ensuring that we have better training for frontline services. People often forget that the first person that a woman goes to when she leaves a relationship or when she is in fear of her safety could be a doctor, could be a nurse, it could be the police it could be a magistrate. We need to ensure that when women come into contact with these people they have had the training that they need to properly respond to that situation. We saw what happened just recently in Queensland with 24 year old Tara Brown. She did go to the police and unfortunately she was turned away and I know that there is an investigation that is currently been undertaken in relation to that but again it just highlights the need for our frontline services to be better trained.

We’re also looking at ensuring that women that do go to services are provided with a holistic approach. We don’t want women having to travel between different services telling their stories 10 times. Because often they tell their stories once and they don't want to have to do it again. So we're going to be working with the States and Territories in identified domestic violence hot spots, to provide people on the ground in certain centres that are able to provide that one stop advice for women. We're also going to be working with hospitals because as we know many women will end up in hospital , if we can get a service to them at the hospital, again, that will provide them, I hope, with the assistance that they need. We're also going to be partnering with the College of General College of Practitioners to ensure that the training for GPs going forward does include domestic violence. General practitioners in Australia on average see up to 5 women a week that have suffered from domestic violence, and yet their medical degrees entail only 2 hours of training on domestic violence.

We believe that if we can partner with the General College of Practitioners and ensure that the up to 33,000 people that are currently practising in Australia have the requisite training. They then will be in a much better position to deal with the women that come to them. And of course though as the Prime Minister has identified, if you are not tackling the root cause of this problem which is gender inequality and respect for women, we will keep on having this conversation. So part of our package is ensuring that the Safe Schools website is properly resources. I was delighted two weeks ago when the curriculum council announced that not later than 2017, the Respectful Relationships programs will be embedded in the Australian education curriculum and will be rolled out in schools across Australia, starting from kindergarten through to Year 10. Because as we know, when it comes to the attitudes of our young boys in particular, as the Prime Minister has said, it's absolutely devastating that up to 25% of young people think it's ok that you can slap a women if you've been drinking. They also think that hitting a women is just a sign of male strength. That is the size of the problem we are facing and so we are making a $5 million investment to expand the Safe Schools website again to ensure that the resources that are being provided to teachers, that are being provided to parents, that are being provided to children, are based on the best available research. So the package today, the Women's Safety Package, it's a holistic package, it responds to keeping women safe at home, providing them with the practical technology that they need, to ensure that they have that mobile phone that they know they can utilise. It responds very much to the integration of services, the training of frontline services, but we're also going to be tackling gender inequality. So, Prime Minister, thank you, on behalf of all the women in Australia for your commitment to the Women's Safety package, but in particular, for making it very clear, and I'm not going to breach any Cabinet rules here by saying what happened in Cabinet, however, I think people will understand when I say that the Prime Minister did make it very clear to us in our very first Cabinet meeting that within is Government, respect for women will be a number one priority. I do believe that is going to be a game changer in this country. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much, I will hand over to Rosie Batty.

ROSIE BATTY: Thank you Prime Minister and thank you Michaelia. I'm really very emotional. I've worked really hard this year. I've spoken at over 250 events and reached over 50,000 people trying to get this message across of how serious family violence is in our society. There have been thousands of people through decades working so hard to get to this point where we accept and acknowledge this is a gender issue. WE have two women a week murdered. One in three women affected by violence, and one in four children. We finally are starting to hear from the leaders of this country that they are addressing this issue. That they recognise the responsibility they have to lead our society our community by speaking the language that we need to hear. Not just talking the talk, but they are not starting to walk the walk. I think there’s going to be a lot of people today recognising that this is a huge signal that no more research, well, more action. It is very moving, it is very moving. We have still a long way to go. But by recognising the gender issue that exists, by the Prime Minister stating that we need to respect and value the contribution of women as equals. And, that we have a vision of an Australia that is proud of respecting women. That sends the message far and wide and I am really, really pleased I was able to be here today. Thank you.

KEN LEY: Thanks Rosie, Prime Minister and Senator Cash. It’s interesting to look around the room and see some people that we’ve worked so hard to move community attitudes. We’ve worked so hard there’s been lots of spoken word, lots of written word, but I am not sure anything has been quite so powerful as when we have the Prime Minister of the country, and one of his Ministers, stand up and speak beautifully and eloquently about the damage of family violence. This is the opportunity to change a culture. So I thank you Prime Minister and I thank you Minister and Rosie to do this work and I look forward in the next little while providing you some more advice to hopefully move this matter forward.

I don’t think any of us will be surprised whether it’s in the next day or next two days or the next week we will see another example of a woman losing her life as a result of family violence. While today is a great step forward, there is still so, so much more to be done. Both Rosie and I are committed to ensuring the advisory group gives the Prime Minister, his Cabinet, the Premiers, and first Ministers of this country the best possible advice to address this issue.

Just quickly, the technology announcements are very, very positive. For too long those of us particularly with a police background have seen women terrorised and hurt and damaged by men using technology. The opportunity is to speak a bit more broadly. Senator Cash spoke about needing to get better in the way we respond. Those of you that heard Rosie’s powerful yet very, very sad story would understand that first responders at times do let victims and their families down. So again this is an enormously important part in actually making sure the response is better.

And Rosie, I’m sure you won’t mind me just commenting that in the next little while the Coroner will make some comments about young Luke’s death. And, I am sure again that will reinforce the need for frontline services to understand this issue better and respond far better to the people who need us most.

And finally, the piece around respect for relationships is of enormous importance to our community. The Prime Minister and Senator Cash have spoken about some research that tells a sad, sad tale of attitudes by boys, teenagers and men in their attitudes and their feelings towards women. It underscores the amount of work that we have to do to get this right. In finishing that attitude piece is very, very important to me. Can I just make this point again. When the leaders of our country talk about Gender inequity they talk about power, they talk about the sense of entitlement. It actually starts moving the culture. Congratulations PM.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.

[Applause]

Well, are there any questions?

QUESTION: What about expanding the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence nationally?

PRIME MINISTER: That is not a matter that has come up before us to date but Michaelia may be able to respond.

MINISTER CASH: Look, at the end of the day, at the Commonwealth level and we support if a particular state wants to have a Royal Commission then that state is entirely entitled to do that. From the Commonwealth’s perspective though, we have a national plan to reduce violence against women and their children. That plan is based on extensive consultation amongst stakeholders including those who have been subjected to domestic violence. I accept the evidence that domestic violence is there. I think what people are looking for now is action. As Rosie said, this is the time now for action and that is very much on what the Commonwealth Government is focusing on. What can we do by way of actions that will make a positive difference in the lives of women and children who have been subjected to domestic violence? But again, if a particular state or territory wants to have a Royal Commission we respect that that is their decision of that particular state or territory but at this point in time it is not our focus. Our focus today is a women’s safety package. Practical action items to keep women safe at home. Thinking of what we can do to better support frontline services and obviously investing in respectful relationships.

QUESTION: [Indistinct]

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s a question of leadership and that is leadership from the Prime Minister, it’s leadership from parents, it’s leadership from teachers, it’s leadership from employers and bosses in the workplace. Right across we’ve got to be aware of this, I think there is a lot of, I think we know, there is a lot of what you might call unthinking disrespect of women where it is accepted as being normal and it is done, men disrespect women without thinking about it.

We’ve got to be, we have to be aware of it. This is a critically important point and I just want to reemphasise it. Disrespect of women doesn’t always end up in violence against women, but all violence against women begins with disrespect of women. This is about power, as we know, this is about exerting power and so it is absolutely critical that we are aware of this that we are men and women are and should be equal. They should have equal rights. The point that Michaelia makes about gender equality in every aspect of life is absolutely critical. But there’s also this big cultural issue. Culture takes time to change but I have to say that throughout my life, I’ve learned that culture – whether it is at a national level, whether it is in an organisation, is absolutely critical. Often it is the single most important thing that makes for success or failure. So what we’re doing today is responding with measures to address domestic violence, or the consequences of domestic violence, family violence, violence against women. But we’re also, as Ken has made the point more eloquently than any of us, this is a cultural shift that we need and most Australian men do respect women. I’m not suggesting anything else. But what we do need to do, I would like, it is my dream that Australia will in the future be known for respecting women so that when people talk about Australia they will say, ‘Boy, those Australians they really respect women,’ and women will say, ‘if you are a women in Australia you are respected.’ Should that not be something of which we could be proud?

MICHAELIA CASH: Hear hear!

PRIME MINISTER: Wouldn’t that be something that we should be noted for? Famous for? This could be, should be, will be a big transformative change. This could be, should be, will be, a big transformative change and everyone will benefit. But we've got to be aware of it. We cannot keep on saying 'oh, you know, talking about disrespecting women is just being about being politically correct, you know, it's not a big deal, or brushing things off.’ We've got to be aware of it. We've got to keep it in our head and particularly leaders. And I would say to every leader, whether it's a school teacher, a
parent, or an employer, just remember that disrespecting women leads, not always, but far too often to the tragedies that we've heard about today.

MINISTER CASH: David Morrison also summed it up very nicely, when he said the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That's a challenge for every single one of us. When we leave here today and we hear that demeaning joke in relation to women it's so easy to laugh at it but you can't. You've got to take that personal resolution; that personal responsibility to call it out. And calling it out quite frankly starts with us here. But the media also has that fantastic role. You are literally in every home in Australia in some way every single day. You have this powerful influence, if you're out there saying you need to respect women its un-Australian not to. As a country we need to be proud of what we are going to achieve going forward. That's going to make a fundamental difference. So much is taking on that personal responsibility, but as the Prime Minister, leadership also does begin at the top and that is what we are here today demonstrating to Australians.

KEN LAY: Alan, it's a really interesting question you ask about that public conversation. A couple of weeks ago Rosie and I sat in a room with the then Communications Minister and Senator Cash and spoke to a couple of the senior executives of the media. And if we don't get this right, the way family violence is reported, if we continue to see the woman being responsible for the violence that occurs against her, if we don't call out that aggressive and awful behaviour we sometimes see from men, we won't get there. We just need to have that consistent message out there that it is not the woman's fault. It doesn't matter if she was drunk; it doesn't matter what her view was, it is just not appropriate that boys, teenagers and men think it's okay to disrespect women or treat them any differently. So I suspect that you'll see in the next little while both Rosie and I will continue to test what's said in the media and what's written in the media. I was enormously heartened by what we heard in that room about the support we've got and the agreement to think about codes of practice and the like. We're moving but the media has to help us along.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

ROSIE BATTY: Look I think what we're talking about is giving the women the choice, because it's quite ludicrous to think that we've always placed the onus of safety onto the victim, and expect that they uproot themselves, move, pull their children out of school, leave the community and family members that are supporting them; live anonymously, and hide. It will be that some people have to do that. It will be the right solution for some women but a lot of people will want to feel safer at home, and ongoing more safely at home. It should not be their responsibility to fund this added, themselves - to find the resources themselves when they are innocent in this. So really, I think it sends a message I feel that is supporting women with the choices that they want to make. And they do need to be supported. They do need to be linked in closely with family violence specialised services and the police. But it is one step further. Currently we rely on an intervention order to keep a woman safe. So there are things that need to work together. This isn’t just one of the solutions but it is part of a solution and I think that it can’t guarantee anyone’s safety but it can go a long way towards many people - women feeling better supported and giving them greater choice. Thank you.

MICHAELIA CASH: Can I just endorse Rose Batty’s comments and in particular in relation to choice. Why is it that to date it has been a woman who has had to leave the home, uproot herself, uproot her children. The children lose their friends, they can’t go to school anymore, they can’t spend all of their time in a shelter so then they have to basically almost you know couch surf amongst people who are prepared to take them on. So for me very much this is about saying to the woman ‘no you’re at home.’ In terms of the package we are announcing today, though it also has a spectrum. There will be some women who just need an initial safety assessment of their home – they might need their locks changed and that’s really all they need and we’ll be able to do that for them. We will be doing that in conjunction with The Salvation Army who already work on the ground with a team of people who go around Australia providing risk assessments for women in terms of what they might need to keep their home safe and obviously that will then be funded. But it also goes right through to the high end of the spectrum and it’s about 1500 women a year that we will be able to get to. These are the high risk women. These are the women who very much they do need to have the perpetrator GPS tracking, they do need the CCTV, they need the panic button, they need the safety lights. So it is a spectrum that very much as Rosie said, why is it that the woman and the children have to leave their home. We need to reverse that and as the Government we need to be putting in place the measures that we can to take steps to ensure the woman’s safety. But I do want to make the point that Rosie made, we cannot guarantee 100 per cent and you must always remember that as a woman, but we can certainly assist you with the additional measures that you need to make your home the haven it should be.

JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull can I ask you about a specific case of domestic violence in referencing Chris Brown strangled and beat up his girlfriend Rihanna. He’s set to visit Australia in late December but isn’t allowed to enter New Zealand for that reason. Why should he be allowed to enter Australia?

MICHAELIA CASH: Can I jump in there and I’m sorry Prime Minister. Up until last week I was the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. I had previously not allowed a particular sports person to come into Australia because of his record in relation to domestic violence. I can assure you that the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection will be looking at this very very seriously. I am clearly not going to pre-empt a decision by the Minister, however I can assure what my strong recommendation would be. People need to understand if you want to commit domestic violence and then you want to travel around the world, there are going to be countries that say to you ‘ you cannot come in because you are not of the charter that we expect in Australia’. And certainly without pre-empting the decision of the Minister I can assure you this is something the Minister is looking at.

JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull can I just get your thoughts as well on that topic?

PRIME MINISTER: The Minister has very brilliantly expressed the thoughts of the Government.

MICHAELIA CASH: This is a Government that is not afraid to say no. You look at the number of section 501 character cancellations that our former Minister Morrison, Minister Dutton and myself were prepared to exercise. But in particular, my own personal decision in relation to the very, very very wealthy boxing star that wanted to come into Australia to have a huge match that was going to generate for him a lot of money and we said ‘no we are not providing you with a visa, you are not the type of person we want in Australia’. I don’t believe we are afraid to exercise that discretion.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you said the law lags technology. Where do you see places that there will be change and particularly in regards to domestic violence?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, well thank you. The law inevitably does lag technology because technology is moving so fast. Having said that the law lags technology more than it ought to, it shouldn’t be as far behind as the Dead Sea. Look there is a provision in the Commonwealth Criminal Law that makes it an offence to use telecommunications, including online services to harass people and threaten people. It isn’t used as much as it probably should be. I’m not sure whether Ken’s got a view on that as a former Police Commissioner. This is an issue which we addressed when I was the Communications Minister, which wasn’t very long ago. And we are addressing it through the eSafety Commissioner and my then Parliamentary Secretary Paul Fletcher was very engaged with this. Now we had a very good discussion with Belinda Lowe who is the chief legal officer here about what she saw as the gaps in the law and she identified that. Again this is a Cabinet Government I’m leading, we’re not making policy on the run. But, if for example there is a need for a more specific provision that is easier for police to use, then we would certainly be open to doing so. But to threaten a woman with publication of intimate photographs – either by threatening to put them up online, or showing them to work mates or relatives or something like that – is thoroughly unacceptable conduct. And very few people would approve of that. So it probably is covered by the current provision but it may be better from a policing point of view to have a specific provision. Ken do you have a view on that?

KEN LAY: Thank you Prime Minister. There are various ways that we are seeing technology being used and another one is women being tracked and men exercising their power over women by knowing where they are at all times. So while there’s some work to be done in States’ areas, there’s also some opportunity to do some work at the Commonwealth level. It is important to understand exactly where those gaps are. But certainly what we’re hearing at the advisory group that many, many women feel unsafe as a result of technology being used against them in various ways.

PRIME MINISTER: Okay we will take one more question, so lucky you.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, are you willing to contribute any funding to that and what’s going to happen to the $1.5 million in

PRIME MINISTER: Well look, my Government as you know, has a renewed, a very clear focus on cities. I have appointed a new Minister, Jamie Briggs, who is the Minister for Cities and the Built Environment. Infrastructure, urban infrastructure, which the Commonwealth may support, should be assessed on its own merits with no discrimination as to whether its mass transit – rail, in the case you’re talking about – or for roads for example. These are decisions again that need to be taken very carefully and certainly we will look at it very carefully and with a very open mind. While I am a notorious user of public transport, I’m very fond of Melbourne trams in particular; I’m completely agnostic about particular types of technology.

On types of transport, can I just give you an example, and perhaps I will just wrap up on this. One of the great mistakes in public policy is to confuse the means with the ends. Now you saw this with the NBN. Now the Labor Party decided that fibre-to-the-premises was the only access technology that was acceptable and failed to take into account that it takes a very, very long time and costs a lot of money. And instead they should have said, which is what I did when I had responsibility for it, was let’s just have a look at the customer. What does the customer want? Fast, affordable broadband and let’s just use whatever technology that gets the job done. And so that’s why the NBN is proceeding so much quicker than it would have done if Labor had stayed with their policy.

Now the same is true of transport. Cities need connectivity. The key to a modern, liveable city – there are many keys – is very good connectivity. People have got to be able to move around and get to work and get to the shops and connect with each other. We humans are social animals. The reason we live in cities is because we are social animals and we are more productive when we are working together. And a city needs a good mix of transport infrastructure. So our approach should be therefore, one that is completely agnostic to the type of infrastructure. Support whaetever projects that deliver the outcomes that we want. And what we want to have obviously is to ensure that our cities are more liveable, more productive and that will add. That is part of our drive for a stronger economy. I know we’re moving off family violence onto cities, another one of my passions, but can I just say to you that liveable cities – take marvellous Melbourne, it is an economic asset. It is absolutely having safe, liveable cities where people can walk around and feel safe, with people moving around freely that is a huge economic asset. And it’s not just a touchy-feely thing at all.

Having said all of that, thank you very much for your attendance here today. I think this is a very important announcement and it’s a very clear indication of our commitment. Can I just say finally, thank you to Mike – come here. Now this is our host, Michael Smith, who’s the director of the Eastern Community Legal Centre who have hosted us here and who are of course receiving some additional funding from Michaelia’s package. So did you want to say something Mike?

MICHAEL SMITH: Thank you very much Prime Minister, Minister Cash. It’s great to have you all here. This domestic violence is a national crisis. It’s fantastic to see this great response. There’s prevention work in there, there is also legal centres and family services work, working really closely together to respond to those needs. So we look forward to doing that. So thank you.

Ends