Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:00): The statistics on violence against women in Australia are shocking. On average at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives. Half of its victims have children in their care. There is evidence that women with disabilities experience high levels of violence and that Indigenous women experience higher rates of more severe forms of violence than the rest of the population. Domestic violence is the leading cause of death, disability and illness among women aged 15 to 44 years. It is higher than motor vehicle accidents, blood pressure or smoking. It destroys individuals, families and communities. It costs the Australian economy around one per cent of GDP in lost productivity.
The ABS estimates that around two-thirds of women who experience domestic violence are in the workforce. That means that more than 800,000 women, or around one in six women workers, are experiencing some form of violence in their home. Apart from the personal impact of violence, there are costs to employers. These include increased absenteeism and staff turnover, decreased performance and productivity, conflict among workers and safety issues for everyone if the perpetrator of violence goes to the workplace, which we know occurs at alarming rates.
In a report for the Australia Institute Dr Jim Stanford confirmed what domestic violence counsellors have been saying for decades. Economic insecurity is one of the most significant obstacles confronting women in their decision to leave a violent relationship. Introducing paid domestic violence leave into the National Employment Standards offers an important opportunity to reach people living with violence and to provide them with support. The current federal government does not support paid domestic violence leave and this government is actively removing access to this vital lifesaving workplace right from the agreements covering its own employees.
Ill-informed claims and actions by the government are dangerous and negligent. It’s time that they had a rethink on this issue, which should be above politics. Stanford’s report calculates that the cost of providing every worker access to 10 days paid domestic violence leave to be less than 100th of a per cent of last year’s increase in average weekly wages. The idea that this would even be noticed internationally, let alone undermine our competitiveness, is extraordinary. Some of Australia’s leading companies—Qantas, IKEA, NAB, Westpac, Woolworths and Telstra—have all done this. Make no mistake: not paying domestic violence leave is not free. The reality is that the cost of inaction is too high. Paid domestic violence leave will make it easier for women to leave violence. It will make it easier to keep children safe. It will make our workforce healthier and safer. It will save lives. In 2017 there are no more excuses.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.