Ms Patten (Northern Metropolitan):
I rise briefly to speak to the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Bill 2016. As we have heard, this bill gives effect in Victoria to a national domestic violence order (DVO) scheme, which will provide automatic mutual recognition of an enforcement of domestic violence orders no matter where they are issued.
This replaces that existing and onerous situation where someone who has sought protection by obtaining a domestic violence order in one state and has moved to another state to try to start again and escape a lot of the effects and the memories of that domestic violence by bringing their family to a safer-feeling space has to go through the whole process again. This was something the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to do. We have actually been having this conversation for quite a few years. We have been talking about this for a long time. We have had the Victorian Law Reform Commission say, ‘We need to do this; it must be done’, and Victoria is now moving ahead to join that scheme alongside other states like New South Wales, Tasmania and, I think, Queensland, who have already done this.
However, let us remember that DVOs are reactive. They are reactive tools that we use. It is a way of somehow protecting those that have been harmed by family violence, but still it does not affect the scourge of family violence. I do not think that introducing this database is going to go anywhere close to stopping and preventing family violence.
When we look at the statistics — and Ms Fitzherbert and others have mentioned those statistics so I will not repeat them here — we know that most of the people who commit family violence have a history of committing family violence. Having this national database goes some way to assist in keeping and sharing that information between states.
We have made lots of real legal changes to reduce the excuses that men make when they are violent against women, but we keep seeing, time and time again, that these legislative changes are actually having little effect on how the courts deal with family violence. We are still presented with excuses like ‘the partner just lost it’, ‘it was unusual behaviour for him’ or ‘well, of course he was upset because she left him’ and similar excuses. I think these are some of the real seismic shifts we need to make, and I welcome Ms Springle and Ms Fitzherbert mentioning the instructions that we need to be continually giving to courts and to juries to start curbing this.
Sometimes it is about curbing what is sexist thinking. Obviously we saw this weekend’s announcement about the Republican candidate for the US presidency and the outpouring that occurred because of that incredibly sexist, appalling, violent and vile material that came from the presidential candidate. I would like to correct Ms Fitzherbert’s statement about this outpouring on Twitter under the hashtag ‘notokay’. It was not thousands of women; it was millions of women who reported their experiences of violence, of sexual assault and of family violence in response to the attitude of — I do not know what to call the man; let us just called him a celebrity — the Republican presidential candidate, who barely even apologised for the appalling behaviour. These are the issues that I think are still embedded in our society and in some ways are still embedded in our justice system.
Monash University’s report into the statistics on the killing of domestic partners shows that when women have killed their male domestic partners and it has been found that those women have obviously been subjected to domestic violence from the partner, they still have problems in raising that as a self-defence in trials. I think we really need to acknowledge that there is a whole bunch of systemic changes that we need to make. I acknowledge that this government has put its money where its mouth is on this and has been investing in domestic violence schemes and putting a lot of resources into reducing and preventing domestic violence. Hopefully we will be the last generation and this will be the last decade when we see weekly murders from domestic violence.
This bill provides the legal framework for introducing a national database, but as others have said, there is still no commencement date. As I have mentioned, the conversation about a national scheme has been going on for years. Sure, getting the database right is critical, but we really need to do it, and I am concerned, as others are, that there is no commencement date for this. I am somewhat encouraged that today it appears the marriage equality plebiscite is off the table, so that leaves the federal government with an extra $160 million to $200 million to spend on this very worthwhile task of getting the national database introduced and implemented.
That would go a long way. Rather than just seeing advertising campaigns from the federal government, let us see that money put into the domestic violence order scheme and into creating this national database. It is not difficult, and it can be done. It will, as I said, in a reactive way go some way to protect people from domestic violence and family violence, but we continue to have a problem. We need to continue to address the underlying issues of gender inequality, the lack of support and the need for early and rehabilitative interventions. This scheme is, yes, a step going forward, but I think we should be stopping family violence. I support this bill, and I hope that the commonwealth and other states move quickly to facilitate and ensure that the systems are in place as soon as possible.