Second reading debate: National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Bill 2016

It gives me pleasure to rise today to speak on the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Bill 2016. I will state at the outset that the opposition does not oppose the bill. This piece of legislation will play an important part in the work being done to combat domestic violence across Australia. Most importantly, it will remove a burden for people protected by Domestic Violence Orders who move interstate, often to start afresh and escape their situation. It will mean a domestic violence order issued in Victoria will automatically be recognised and enforced by any other state or territory and vice-versa. It is worrying, though, that the government is willing to delay this important piece of legislation until an IT system is in place. I cannot understand the logic of the government to not have this legislation implemented until it is fully funded, and I urge the government to do the right thing so that there is some improvement. To be arrogant and do nothing is not an appropriate way forward.

Family violence is a major law and order issue in Victoria, with incidents recorded by police increasing by staggering amounts. But it is not just Victoria in which it is happening. National domestic orders need to come into effect as soon as possible. The government’s reason for delay is not compelling. People under these orders do not need the added burden of having to re-apply if they cross state lines. Many move interstate to escape an abusive situation and many do so in fear of their lives. The added delay of having to apply for an enforceable order in their new state may have dire consequences. This bill should be proclaimed with temporary safeguards rather than waiting until a computer system is put in place.

In my experience of 30 years of nursing I spent many shifts in accident and emergency, where I worked with people who were victims of family violence or were involved in suicide attempts which were often linked back to family violence episodes. My experience is that domestic violence is a very important issue, but it is also often a complex issue and often associated with drug and alcohol and mental health issues. Therefore as a society I do not think we can forget the challenge we have in front of us to make sure we look at these complex situations and do not try to isolate them and treat them as silo issues.

Just last week I met with Dr Rodger Brough, a drug and alcohol physician in my electorate, who lectured me 30 years ago. There is an enormous amount of respect for Dr Brough right across the country. We had a very good conversation around how family violence is not just about a health issue. It certainly is often a health issue but it is also an issue of tough love. We have to increase the way we, as a society, address the boundaries and the consequences that people will face if they do the wrong thing. That is where we are going wrong. I have been involved with many drug programs. I have handed out a lot of methadone and Subutex that help recovering addicts, and I have supported many families in my community work, particularly in the last 15 years where I worked in community health and walked with families on their health journey through many issues. Many of those issues were drug and alcohol-related issues.

I have seen my fair share of clients as a result of family violence, and I am very confident that a lot of it was attributed to drug, alcohol and mental health issues that are not handled as well as I would like to see them handled. We need to stop being a bit too soft. I think the community are saying this to us every day. They are saying we need to put boundaries in place — adults need boundaries, children need boundaries, everybody needs boundaries — and we need to have consequences. The legislation talks about being able to detain people, but until the legislation is actually proclaimed, the police will be restricted, as they are now, in doing their job.

I spoke this week also with a man who has been a detective in the Victorian police force for the last 30 years and who is frustrated that he cannot do his job, he cannot get the convictions he needs to get and too many people are just being let out. He talked about one particular client — I do not know if you call them a client when it is someone you are working with when you are a policeman. Twenty-one times they tried to get a conviction, and this guy was bailed, even though he told the magistrate he would reoffend and needed to go to prison because he needed to have boundaries put in place.

I have seen that myself. I myself have had clients tell me that the prison system is a place they go to make sure they do not kill themselves, because they know they are pushing the boundaries of their drug use. So they would steal cars and they would drive at high speeds so they would get put behind bars so they did not actually die.

It is tough, I know, but it is time we got tough. We need more police on the streets. We need to give those police the ability to do their job. I was very, very shocked when I did the Vinnies sleep-out this year and we had a mob of professional protesters come and disturb the peace. There was nothing the police could do, not because they were not doing their job but because we have changed laws — we have no longer got the move-on laws, for example — and the police are frustrated. No wonder they are going off on stress leave. They just want to do their job. The victims of family violence just want to be protected, police just want to protect them and it is time we worked out really what is going on.

I commend the fact that we are working towards change and that this bill will do that. I know it will help women and it will also help men who are also victims of family violence. I understand they are not necessarily the ones who are being killed, but I have talked to many recently who are upset by the fact that they are not being brought into this debate and understood and respected.

So we can make a difference, and I am pleased this bill will assist people who need protection. I hope this legislation will be enacted and proclaimed and that we will not sit and wait and put people at risk any longer.