Statement on Indulgence - Australian Parliament House, ACT

24 Feb 2020
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and on indulgence and as consulted with the Leader of the Opposition through our offices today. As the Member for Barton just spoke in this place of these terrible, murderous events, the sad truth is that they are not isolated incidents. They have happened on just so many occasions. And before Question Time undertaking this indulgence today as we reflect, in particular, on the terrible crime that was committed against Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. We also speak of the terrible murders of so many others - mothers and children. Murder - that's what it is. Murder that again last Thursday shocked our country. When Jenny and I spoke about it, we just couldn't get our heads around it, as I'm sure is the case for every single parent, and it doesn't matter if you are a parent or not - you can't imagine it. It is just too horrible to contemplate. The act itself and that somebody could perpetrate that act, particularly as a father. It is incomprehensible. An act of such depravity that only makes you ask - how does such evil happen in our land? 

To the Clarke family, all of us extend our sympathies and our love. But I must wonder if that could ever be enough to cover the profound grief. They have shown incredible resilience and character in the worst of all possible circumstances. As best we can, we also send the country's love to you. In your grief, you have every right to be angry, furious, because everything we have done across this country to protect women and children didn't protect Hannah and her children from this evil. I believe state, territory and national governments, all of us, our agencies and importantly the judiciary must all reflect again on these terrible murders. We must reflect on how and where the system failed Hannah and her children, as it has failed so many others. It is so frustrating. It is so devastating. While this was the action of a depraved and evil man, we know enough of the circumstances leading up to the murders to know this should not have happened, and there will rightly be an inquest in Queensland, and I commend the Queensland Government for taking that action as they should. It will speak the truth, I have no doubt, as so many others have spoken the truth, and we already know this - Hannah deserved to feel safe and be safe, and to watch her joyous and wonderful children grow up. Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey deserved to have a childhood that was innocent and to have lives that were long and joyous. 

For most of us in this chamber, for all of us, the words family violence just jar. Saying those words together - they should never be together. They have nothing to do with each other. Quite the opposite. Because our families should be the safest place in all of the world, particularly for our kids. But sadly, all too often, they are not, we know that, as hard as it is to believe, one woman is killed every nine days by a partner or a former partner. One in six Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of 15. We know these figures. We have spoken of these figures I don't know how many times in this place. Regardless of who has sat on this side of the chamber or that side of the chamber, we know these figures, or on what side of the chamber or the other side of the chamber at every state parliament in this country. Every 2 minutes somewhere in this country, police are called out to a domestic violence incident, and as Members we know that commonwealth and the states and territories, we do work closely on tackling violence against women and children, and we must continue to do this together. 

This has been, I think, one of the shining lights of bipartisanship in this chamber and in so many chambers around our country. I acknowledge the work, as I have done, and others have done, on the establishment of the first action plan, under the national plan to reduce violence against women and their children from 2010 to 2022 that was commenced under the Rudd and Gillard governments. That was a great initiative. Now, as part of the fourth action plan, that spirit continues, that partnership continues - a partnership that exists not just across this aisle, which is closed by our commitment to addressing this, but between the state and territory governments and the Commonwealth as well. 

A record $340 million has been provided under this plan for frontline services to protect and support women and children. In total since 2013 some $840 million has been committed to addressing domestic and family violence, carrying on the work that was initiated by the previous Labor government. 

In August last year COAG agreed to the fourth action plan, and in November we released the national implementation plan it includes funding for prevention strategies and frontline services including for groups which needed additional support, funding for safe spaces as well as funding for 1800 RESPECT, and that 1800 RESPECT line is open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. When COAG comes together in a few weeks time, this will once again be on our agenda. 

But it is a time for us all to reflect. But to reflect together. There are never any excuses, there are none, or justifications for the evil that Hannah and her children experienced, never, not under any circumstances. With the states and territories, and together as a parliament we will continue to work together to translate these words that I'm sure the Leader of the Opposition will also state with the same passion, into actions and changes that make a real difference for women and children. 

Mr Speaker, the violent crime, the murder that sought to deny a woman her voice and future, let me read one of Hannah's last Instagram posts which expressed a hope. She wrote, "I am a strong woman" - no doubt she was. “I don't sit around feeling sorry for myself, nor will I ever let anyone mistreat me again. I am a survivor, not a victim. I am in control of my life, and there is nothing I can't achieve. My girls will grow up being strong women, who understand their worth." This hope was crushed when Hannah and her children were murdered. 

We must work together, as we have been, and as, for as long as it takes to restore that hope, to those we know right now, today in this country, who are living in exactly the same danger as Hannah and her children.