Federal election 2016: What Labor and Liberal are promising on domestic violence

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Election 2016: Shorten pledges $88m to fund safe housing

The Opposition Leader announces more funding for safe houses for women and children escaping domestic violence. Video courtesy ABC News 24

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New polling from Fair Agenda, seen exclusively by Fairfax Media, shows more than half of Australians would be more likely to vote for a political party that prioritised funding for family violence services.

"It's clear that voters across the political spectrum want to see more done on this issue; and that they're willing to vote for it," says Renee Carr, Fair Agenda executive director.

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

We today published our first domestic violence half-year report. In light of the 34 deaths of women due to domestic violence so far this year, and with just two days to go until the federal election, how do Labor and Liberals' family and domestic violence policies stack up?

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We have focused on the two major parties' approaches to domestic violence. For an overview of broader party promises regarding women, visit Fair Agenda's scorecard and the Women's Electoral Lobby's assessment of party responses to its Women and Children's Safety Program

Election promises territory can be a quagmire of rebranding and merged budgets.

We've asked Helen L'Orange, convenor of Violence Against Women Action Group at the Women's Electoral Lobby, to isolate the major parties' NEW domestic violence election commitments:

COALITION:

  • NEW $33.3 million a year, or $100 million over three years for the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, informed by COAG Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children. An additional $9.9 million will go towards the development of the National Domestic Violence Order (DVO) System that will enable courts and police to share information relating to DVOs across all Australian jurisdictions.

ALP:

  • NEW $44 million a year, or $88 million over two years, for a Safe Housing for Women program, which will address the pressure on current limited women's refuge availability. 
  • NEW A National Crisis Summit on Family Violence, to be convened within 100 days of Shorten Labor Government. An annual statement to the Parliament accompanied by a report from the Prime Minister and responding to the COAG Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence Against Women and their Children within a year of taking office. 
  • NEW Funding certainty for peak family violence organisations such as 1800RESPECT and ANROWS, with an investment of $65 million over six years.
  • NEW Funding for access to fairer legal representation, investing $42.9 million in frontline legal services and $4.5 million to build capacity in Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) who directly support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children experiencing family violence. ATSILS will receive $18.2 million over three years, and $2.25 million will go to NATSILS. Plus $43.2 million over four years to avoid re-traumatisation of victims and survivors of family and domestic violence.
  • NEW Support for women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds and for women on visas, including $3.8m over three years toward developing pilot programs that assist new migrants in gaining access to family and domestic violence services.
  • NEW Early intervention processes. $8.4 million into research on mapping perpetrator interactions across family violence, law enforcement, justice, child protection and related systems.
  • NEW Family and domestic violence leave. Labor will provide for five days paid domestic and family violence leave in the National Employment Standards.

While L'Orange says the WEL has been very disappointed by the coalition's promises, neither of the major parties have as strong a family violence package as those of the Greens and Nick Xenophon Team. 

SENATOR MICHAELIA CASH on the coalition's promises:

"Our focus on implementing effective and comprehensive policies has been unwavering and our efforts will not stop until all women and children in Australia are safe in their homes, safe on the streets and safe online.

"In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the level of awareness about domestic violence and this has been a crucial development.

"What was once Australia's 'dirty little secret' is now an issue being openly discussed in homes and communities across the country.

"The practical effect of this increased awareness is that more victims or potential victims of domestic and family violence are taking the brave step to reach out for help and escape situations where they are subjected to violence or abuse.

"Domestic violence represents the antithesis of the values that we as Australians hold dear.

"As a society have a responsibility to end the cycle of disrespect that can result in violence against women."

TERRI BUTLER MP on the ALP's promises:

"There is no one piece of policy response that is in and of itself sufficient. You've got to have prevention, crisis services, secondary services and change cultural attitudes."

"We're really proud of ourselves that we introduced a national plan to run from 2010 to 2022. That's been instrumental in bring family violence to the forefront of national consciousness.

"Crisis services were really underfunded for a very long time in Australia. More people are now seeking help and more people are now aware that this is a national crisis.

"Our family law commitments are a really significant measure that we've worked really hard on. We think it's important that people going through the family law system do not find it an opportunity for more trauma. Our work pressure has forced the coalition to wind back some if its cuts on legal services. And we suggest a new visa class for women who can stay in Australia without having to stay in abusive relationships.

"Like everyone, I'm horrified by the number of homicides and am horrified by some of the violence that is happening to women who are high risk. Stopping cultural practices and views that make room for violence is crucial. We have to have a country where gender equality is a reality. We have to have a country where people's relationships with each other are based on respect. We have to have a country that doesn't condone violence. And we need to have systems that are supportive rather than causing greater harm.

"I'm also very keen to understand what works in a longer term way. It's not something that will be dealt with overnight."

THE SURVIVOR'S VIEW:

"What the government are doing, I find it rude. There aren't enough refuges and Legal Aid has been cut by 30 per cent," said Sydney survivor Lisa McAdams, pictured, who left her abusive husband 10 years ago.  

"When women make the decision to get to safety, there are fewer resources for them. 1800 RESPECT needed $30 million to keep the level of support they have now while coping with the level of demand. But they got a tenth of that. That first phone call determines how the rest of it goes.

"They went for the cheap option while saying how much they care. If I wasn't involved in this world, I would be looking on and thinking it's getting so much better. Words are nice but they don't save lives."

THE REFUGE DIRECTOR'S VIEW:

"I'm delighted we are having a national conversation about domestic violence, even five years ago there was absolutely not this level of profile," said Liz MckInlay, board director of the entirely community-funded Mary's House refuge, due to open in North Sydney in September.   

"The real challenge lies in our focus on generational change and educating young people, addressing the issue of what is consent and what is respect. Our crisis accommodation and perpetrator programmes is way too late without these values.

"If we don't start changing kids' understanding and attitudes - both boys' and girls' - we're really not going to see generational change.

"Is a $30 million TV and media campaign the best use of money? Could it have been invested in school programs?"