Feb 24, 2020

Statements on Indulgence – Domestic and Family Violence – Monday, 24 February 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (14:09): I thank the Prime Minister for not just his words but, no doubt, his sincere commitment to do something about this, along with the rest of this parliament. The murders of Hannah Clarke and her children, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, have shaken us to the core. Yet again, a woman has lost her life to a former male partner. Yet again, children are robbed of their futures by a father who betrayed what should have been the most powerful bond of all, between a parent and their child. We cannot let their shocking and horrific end be their whole story. We must hold on to their names; hold on to the image of those four faces, so happy because they were with each other; and hold on to the courage that Hannah showed. As the Prime Minister said, she left, and that takes courage. She took her kids to what she thought was safety only to find that that wasn’t the case, that a man who had a record of crime—because it is a crime against his own family—conducted the ultimate crime and in a manner which, quite frankly, is just beyond comprehension. It’s difficult to understand how that could possibly occur.

Our hearts also go out to the bystanders and the first responders, who tried to help but who found themselves powerless. One of those assistants, of course, ended up with injuries themselves.

On Wednesday morning I was in Brisbane, and Terri Butler, the member for Griffith—the local member—rang me up about this before the news broke, because I was giving a speech at the media club and didn’t want to be caught out. We had a much longer conversation than you would expect because it was difficult to comprehend the sheer horror of what had happened.

Our sympathies are also with the family and friends of Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. They are grieving in the worst of circumstances, and they are showing incredible resilience under those circumstances.

We were, of course, shaken again just days later when, in the early hours of Saturday morning, a woman in Townsville was stabbed to death in her home. Once again, we heard that most dreadful but all-too-familiar line that police were treating it as a ‘domestic violence incident’. We must confront the awful truth: that this is an epidemic and that, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. All of us in this place and many other people are directly impacted by this. These women are our mothers, our sisters, our neighbours, our aunts, our cousins, people we have contact with, members of our political parties, members of parliament, nurses—everyone is affected by this scourge. Violence and abuse against women exists in many forms: physical, emotional, financial. We cannot be mere bystanders. We shouldn’t keep relearning the same lesson that evil happens when good people do nothing.

Last May, I suggested a national summit. I know there have been meetings such as that in the past. I do think it is worth consideration as put forward, not in a political way but in the spirit in which it’s intended. The Prime Minister indicates he’s taking it. It’s time, once again, to use the extent of this horrific act to get it through that we need to listen to those people who are impacted by family violence and to the experts. We need to learn. We desperately need to act.

I do want to say that I think that we need to repel some of the attacks as well. We need to speak up when people make the sorts of comments—including in the aftermath of this tragedy—that are entirely inappropriate. We must repel attacks on the Family Court of Australia. The existence of a standalone specialist family court is a Labor legacy that we will defend. Whatever problems there are with the current family law system, the existence of a standalone specialist family court is not one of them. It is a necessary part of the solution. Government and opposition can work together on this. All of us, as members of parliament, have a role to play. The memory of Hannah Clarke and her three beautiful children must galvanise us all into further action to eliminate violence against women and children. We can’t accept this as normal. We have it in us to be so much better. Lives depend on it, as we see all too often.

I did write to you, Mr Speaker, and spoke to you earlier today about the need for the parliament to acknowledge this, and I thank the Prime Minister for the way that he has conducted the capacity of us as a parliament. I do think it would be appropriate that we acknowledge—as I wrote to you, in the normal way that we do—the fact that this parliament stands as one in respect for Hannah and her three beautiful children: Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. Let’s hope, let us just hope, that in years to come there will be a Prime Minister standing on that side of the aisle and a Leader of the Opposition on this side of the aisle who give very different speeches about how we’ve been through a considerable period of time without there being a murder, a fatality. That is truly an objective worth each and every one of us working towards each and every day in whatever capacity we have.