Public Accounts and Estimates Committee: budget estimates 2015-16

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure to follow the member for Brighton. I wish her well with her future plans. I rise to make a contribution to the committee report stage of parliamentary proceedings and wish to speak on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) report on its inquiry into the 2015–16 budget estimates. I want to concentrate my contribution on the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence’s contribution. In fact the minister was just down in my electorate a few weeks ago to meet with local community providers and service organisations, and we hosted a forum around the Andrews Labor government’s gender equality strategy. I must say that after sitting around the table with many people it became evident that we certainly have a long way to go in that area. I wish the minister well in those endeavours.

As members know and as people are very well aware, the Andrews Labor government undertook the Royal Commission into Family Violence, and a number of recommendations have come out of it. In the minister’s contribution to the PAEC inquiry she said that the drivers of family violence are gender inequality and poor gender stereotypes. The minister even provided some examples of these disturbing attitudes and stereotypes about women. She mentioned that there was a survey in 2013 that found one in five people believes family violence can be excused if the violent person regrets it at a later date and one in five also believes there are circumstances in which women are responsible for the violence. These are totally unacceptable viewpoints and indeed quite alarming, but these attitudes, stereotypes and beliefs actually allow atrocious acts to happen. I am talking in this case about forced marriages, sex slavery and even honour killings.

No-one should make the mistake and believe that these do not occur within our community. They do, and the minister makes note of this in her contribution. The Royal Commission into Family Violence found that 42 cases of forced marriage were referred to the Australian Federal Police between March 2013 and May 2015. During a community consultation held for the royal commission a young girl revealed:

It’s so common here among my relatives to not even ask the young people and to go to Afghanistan and get a person to marry them.

Undoubtedly this is happening quite a lot and is often not reported. I think in this society, certainly through the royal commission and the work that has been done around the gender equality strategy, we have an opportunity to sensitively — and I do mean sensitively — tackle this issue and call it out for what it is. One of the royal commission’s recommendations is to include forced marriage and dowry-related abuse as statutory examples of family violence in the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 within 12 months, and I look forward to that.

The minister made note of an incident that had happened in Greece and highlighted that the man responsible for an honour killing was charged with manslaughter, not with murder. Recently we have seen in the paper the case of the social media celebrity from Pakistan, Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered by her brother in the name of family honour. He thought that she had shamed his family, but I think in his case he has certainly let the family down. We will have to see whether in a country like Pakistan he will incur the wrath of the government, because the Pakistani authorities seem to turn a blind eye to this sort of thing or at least impose a lenient sentencing regime.

I would like to finish by just mentioning the issue of human trafficking, which has been brought up by the royal commission and is certainly on the minister’s agenda. We know that this happens in Australia; it happens far too often, and it is often very vulnerable ethnic women who are used for sex trafficking. I note that we have already had a report come to this Parliament in 2010, and not much has been done about it. I think it is up to the minister and this Parliament to really tackle these important issues of sex slavery, honour killings and family violence, which affect some of our most vulnerable women, many of them from countries that do not understand these issues the way we do. These issues have to be tackled head-on by the government in future months. I look forward to meeting with the minister.

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