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ADJOURNMENT: Prevention of Violence Against Women
I rise this evening to discuss what is probably the most important issue to me and my community at the moment and that is the prevention of violence against women.
Just last week, my community—and I think all Australians—were horrified at the brutal stabbing of a Melbourne schoolgirl. She was killed as she walked in her local park, very near the electorate of Deakin. Events like this sting all of us and they sit in our memories. And they follow other horrific crimes in similar circumstances, such as the murder of Jill Meagher and Sarah Cafferkey. Both perpetrators in those crimes were very well known to police and had extraordinarily long rap sheets.
This issue became even more important in my mind following a conversation I had with my wife Anna on the weekend, where I asked her whether she would catch the bus home from the station rather than walk home through a local park. I thought: how extraordinarily sad that I would ask her to do that and that she was quite nervous about the prospect of walking home. Needless to say, she has not caught the bus; she is walking home. But the mere fact that we had to have that conversation placed with me an obligation and I think an obligation on this House to actually do something about violence against women and stop just talking about it, stop the grandiose weasel words and actually do something about it.
It is not just violent crime against women in a setting like what I have described, but domestic violence against women is also a scourge on our society. In fact 24 women so far this women have died as a result of violence. We must do something about it.
Again, the frustration in my community is that politicians forever have said the right things—speeches like mine tonight—making very supportive statements, but nothing actually happens. I think this must stop. Enough is enough. We must have a conversation throughout our policy at a federal and state level to deal with these issues. I have three issues that I want to throw out there tonight for discussion. I do not profess to have the answers in respect of each but these three issues must be dealt with.
Firstly, the whole system of apprehended violence orders must be dealt with. Too often I read in the newspapers that perpetrators—men—have breached apprehended violence orders, 10, 15, 20 times. It is extraordinary to me that that could happen without our state intervening at a point before what often occurs, which is a very violent situation at the end.
Secondly, I propose that we have a discussion around mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes against women and children. As a former lawyer, it is not something that is natural for me to be suggesting. But the reason I am suggesting minimum sentences is because we have lost all faith in the judiciary to actually sentence violent criminals in a way that is consistent with community values. If the judiciary are not willing to reflect the community’s values in respect of violent crime, particularly against women and children, mandatory minimum sentences can take that discretion away from the judges and we can ensure that the community feels as though those violent criminals are put behind bars for as long as they need to be and in accordance with the values of our society.
Lastly—this is controversial—but we must develop a process where there are consequences for judges and other decision-making bodies, like parole boards, who make grievous decisions to not sentence somebody or to release somebody on parole who then commits an extraordinarily violent crime. We must have accountability in our system or else all else fails. At the moment in my community of Deakin, people do not trust that there is that accountability, and more importantly women are not feeling safe. I think we must do something about it and it must start now.