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Speech: Fair Work (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:42): I rise to speak briefly on behalf of the Greens in support of this legislation. Violence against women and children is a problem of epidemic proportions in Australia. One in three women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and one in five has experienced sexual violence. On average, a woman is killed by an intimate partner every 10 days in this country. Rates of violence are even higher for certain groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

At least 700 women have been murdered since the first National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children was adopted 12 years ago. Over 50 women were killed by violence in 2022 and the demand for domestic violence services continues to grow. Even one death due to domestic violence is one too many.

Research shows that in the 2014-15 year the cost to the Australian economy of those experiencing physical violence, sexual violence or emotional abuse by a partner was $12.6 billion and by 2015-16 the cost had increased to $22 billion. It can only be assumed that the impact of COVID-19 on households will have had an even greater financial and personal cost.

The indirect psychological impacts of family and domestic violence include pain, fear and suffering. Replacing damaged household items, changing schools, leaving home and settling a partner's debt not only take time but a very significant cost comes with them. All of these indirect costs are not counted.

The President of the ACTU, Ged Kearney, said family and domestic violence was an 'insidious issue' and that addressing it enables women, men and children to escape the cycle of violence. She emphasised;

If we don't do something now, we will be guilty of turning a blind eye to the single biggest contributor to death, illness or disability of women between 15 and 44 years of age.

Research into workplaces that have existing family and domestic violence leave policies in place shows it can have significant benefits for affected employees, their employers and those workplaces.

The changes proposed in this bill will have an enormous impact on those who need it. Many people are victim survivors of family and domestic violence and may not be able to afford to take five days of unpaid leave. This bill provides that all employees, no matter their working hours, are entitled to up to 15 days of paid leave each year. Importantly, this leave is paid at the employee's full rate of pay, including any overtime, allowances or other loadings.

Maintaining stable employment is an important measure to help support people to escape abusive relationships. The introduction of paid leave is intended to allow victims of family and domestic violence to take time off work without losing their income, without losing their job, to help them exit dangerous and harmful domestic situations. Workers escaping family and domestic violence situations will no longer have to choose between their safety and keeping their job and putting food on the table, although it should never have been the choice that our society made them take to ensure their safety or the safety of their loved ones.

While this bill is an important step, we still need to address the underlying factors that lead to this abuse. We need better education about what respectful relationships look like. We need to address poverty and access to the necessities, such as housing, which plays a pivotal role in reducing violence in our communities. In fact, it is our job in this place to ensure that we use our political will and our political capital to make those life-altering changes to preserve, value and respect particularly the lives of women. Again, to quote the President of the ACTU:

Cultural change is not enough, action must be taken to support workers affected by violence and establishing a basic standard on paid leave will ensure that all workplaces do this.

With that, I commend the bill.

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