MINISTER MORRISON: It is wonderful to be here today with my colleagues Minister Cash and Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Fierravanti-Wells at this very important day where we are bringing together community leaders to take up the voices of the women we have been engaging with now over the last six months in some 29 what we call ‘kitchen table’ conversations. Today is the opportunity to take the outcomes of hearing of those voices and plugging their recommendations, plugging what they have told us into the action plan process which is being led by Minister Cash and working with Rosie Batty and Ken Lay to ensure that their voices are very much part of the action plan going forward. As Senator Fierravanti-Wells knows as our prime person focused on engaging with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities around the country – it doesn’t matter where you are in Australia, what community you are from, what background you have, what religion you have, what ethnicity you have; domestic and family violence reaches every single corner of our country. We can never be so complacent to think it won’t reach any part of our country for any community.
That’s why it is important the government, working together with state and territory governments, has an action plan that deals with all of Australia. That is why today is important. It is important that when people come to Australia they understand the laws of our land, the equality of women, the rights of women, the freedom from any form of violence or abuse whether physical or otherwise. That violence or abuse is not part of our culture, is not accepted in our culture. That is true for every natural born Australian as it is for everyone who takes the pledge and everybody who comes to live here. They are our values, our culture and it is important that we honour that in the way that we extend invitations to people around the world and it is important we live out those values in our own communities.
Today is an important part of how we connect that. We need tools to ensure we deliver in this area. Today I am announcing $160,000 from my own Department that will improve the data collection to help us better understand the challenges within CALD communities to ensure that can inform the action plan and the initiatives taken not only by the Commonwealth but also state and territory governments and all those involved whether law enforcement or engagement with community leaders themselves. This is an issue we address together, which we are combined as one in addressing. It is the darkest place of our society and that dark place leaves no part of our society untouched. So today I am very pleased to be part of this important process. Minister Cash later today will be engaging with State and Territory colleagues to work through the issues that have come out of the Hearing Her Voice report. Senator Fierrravanti-Wells will be joining me and Minister Cash as we engage with community leaders this morning as we work with them to employ and put in place the voices and the lessons we have learnt from this kitchen table conversation over the last six months.
So I thank both my Parliamentary- Secretary and Minister Cash for the work they have put into this. But I particularly thank those community leaders and state and territory ministers who are here working through this issue with us today. With that I will ask Minister Cash to say a few words. She has some announcements as well and will ask the Parliamentary-Secretary to say a few words as well.
MINISTER CASH: It is an absolute delight to be here today with Minister Morrison and Parliamentary Secretary Fierravanti-Wells at what is the first ever national roundtable to discuss violence against Culturally And Linguistically Diverse women. The position of the government is very clear when it comes to violence against women and their children. It is not to be tolerated. It is not to be in any way condoned and it must be stopped. We know that in terms of CALD women when they come to Australia they are often not aware of what their rights are in Australia. So today I am delighted to say and to announce the government is delivering on its election commitment to provide support services for women who come here on partner visas in relation to their rights in Australia. We are launching today a pre-departure pack for women who come here on partner visas. There were over 50,000 partner visas granted last year. The pre-departure pack concerns four main areas – violence against women and their children, sexual assault, child and early and forced marriage and violence against women in the context of coming here on a partner visa. We have translated the pre-departure pack into 22 different languages and we are ensuring it is easily accessible by way of a website link on the DSS website. Again, it is so important from the Australian Government’s perspective that women in Australia regardless of where they come from understand their rights in Australia, understand that if they are in a relationship and have been subjected to violence there are services that are available to them. They need to know how to access those services but more importantly they need to understand that they don’t need to stay in a relationship if they are subjected to violence. So again, delivering on yet another commitment by this government in relation to our pre-departure pack for women coming to Australia on partner visas.
SENATOR FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Thank you Minister Morrison and Minister Cash. I am very pleased to be here today. Having responsibility for multicultural affairs and settlement services I am very much at the grass roots of our CALD communities, building on my many years of experience in this space. Domestic violence in our CALD communities has been regrettably something that has existed for many, many years and I think it is very important now that we take concrete action. We have today joining us many women who have been at the forefront, at the grassroots of this issue in their communities. It is a complex issue because we are not just talking about domestic violence as such, we are talking about cultural overlays, we are talking about cultural heritage and cultural imperatives. Finding the distinction in that very complex area is really important because at the end of this process if we empower women in CALD communities to take action and to make decisions to take themselves out of those difficult circumstances we are assisting and we are helping those families. But as part of this also the work that we do in the domestic violence space also helps build resilience in our communities and most especially our communities at risk. So it is a real pleasure to be here and I look forward to engaging with many of our women here today. Thank you.
MINISTER MORRISON: Any questions?
QUESTION: Forced marriage aspect of this – how significant is that and what demographics are we talking about? This is about cultural differences I take it? Have you identified any cohorts you can reach out to?
MINISTER MORRISON: What I am holding up here is the pre-departure storyboard – the type of material that we make available to people before they come to Australia. The use of graphics and so on is very important in communication in these areas. I know that from my previous experience in immigration. What it also makes direct reference to in this material is in relation to forced marriage. In some cultures there is a higher level of tolerance of this in overseas countries. We need to make it very clear that iconic issues like that when people come to Australia are not part of our culture, not part of our society, they are not tolerated. Even the mere discussion of these matters or the acceptance of these things is what we have to right from the start make very clear is not acceptable in Australia. So whether it is forced marriage or other issues relating to violence against women – and it is also quite specific about the fact it is not just talking about physical violence but it is talking about aggressive language and things of that nature. We have got to deal with this right from the get-go. This sort of package of materials that has been sensibly put together, it is also about a large amount of consultation with the various groups. These matters of course have to be handled sensitively but that sensitivity can’t act as a censor. We have to confront these issues quite honestly and openly and I think partner agencies have done an excellent job in managing those very sensitive issues. Michaelia, do you want to make a point?
MINISTER CASH: Thank you. There is a particular fact sheet in the pre-departure pack on first and early marriage. It clearly sets out that in Australia you need to be 18 or above to be married. It sets out the telephone numbers for services you can call in the event you yourself have been subjected to a forced marriage or alternatively if there is someone you know who has been subjected to a forced marriage. Certainly we know that there are cohorts coming here where in their country of origin early marriage is accepted. But when they come to Australia our laws are very, very clear. Unless you are 18 or above you do not have to get married. So again as Minister Morrison has said these pre-departure packs have been put together after extensive consultation with CALD communities. It has gone through a number of testing processes to ensure the message that we are giving is the appropriate one that ensures the understanding of your rights and responsibilities in Australia are easily accessible to you but at the same time sends a very, very clear message as to what our values are.
QUESTION: Is there a number though for the number of women who have entered into forced marriages in Australia or brought here…
MINISTER MORRISON: Forced marriages in Australia are illegal. It is against the law and the police obviously pursue prosecutions and most people would be aware of a very high profile case here in Sydney recently. I think that demonstrates the resolve with which authorities will follow through. So one instance is one too many when it comes to these matters. We do know that this is an issue where people who are coming from different countries with different cultures will have a different level of tolerance when it comes to even a discussion on these matters as being somewhat acceptable. So that is enough for us to raise it. Another one on here is a very clear statement that the police in Australia are safe and can be trusted. When people come from some countries they will not have that experience. As the son of a policeman, knowing many policemen, I know quite well it is the most regular turn out they have – something of a domestic violence issue. When they turn up at the door it is important, and I know police are trained for this but it is important that people on the other side of the door, people understand the police are there to help. Police are there to help the person in need and in trouble. Police are trained well to deal with that situation and this is helping the police by ensuring those on the other side of the door and in need are understanding they are there to help.
QUESTION: In terms of people coming here illegally, as some people put it, there were some startling figures released yesterday. You were the Minister who instituted the Sovereign Borders policy, can you give us your thoughts on those results?
MINISTER MORRISON: Our policies worked. The boats have stopped. I am very pleased with that. That is the outcome we sought, it is the outcome we achieved, it is the outcome we promised. It was delivered in the way we said we would deliver it and it has saved countless lives.
QUESTION: Did you institute the policy of paying people smugglers to take…
MINISTER MORRISON: I have made no comment on those matters at any time. Neither has that practice been acknowledged by the government at any time.
QUESTION: Can I just ask about Q&A too. We have had…
MINISTER MORRISON: Any other questions on domestic and family violence before we just deal with the politics? Ok, none?
QUESTION: Just on the Q&A thing there has been a development with Q&A being shifted to the news division does that change anything from each of your perspectives given some of you have been on Q&A before, in fact all of you?
MINISTER MORRISON: I haven’t appeared on the programme since becoming Minister and am not considering any invitations. Anything else?
QUESTION: The child care overhaul, when is it going to be put to Parliament?
MINSITER MORRISON: Well we have been working through the regulatory impact statements in relation to the package and that process continues. Once we have finalised that process and are in a position to bring forward the bill we will. Equally we need to address the issue of paying for the package. I remain in discussions with the crossbench Senators about the various measures that will ensure we can support and pay for this $3.5 billion increased investment in child care and early childhood education. If you have policies, and we do, and you have clear plans, and we do, you have to pay for it. You can’t pay for them with thin air and vapour. You have to have concrete measures that can back up your commitments. What we see from the opposition is a lot of hot air. They will commit to anything and pay for nothing. That’s why the Australian people cannot take them seriously on early childhood education and child care where they will promise the world and deliver a peanut. They simply won’t commit to the difficult decisions you have to make to actually fund your commitments. The government is doing that because that is the only sensible and common sense and frankly adult way to run a budget.
QUESTION: Your plans to make people wait for the dole are meant to save the government money. Why are you spending more on a youth jobs plan, isn’t it a bit of an ideological pursuit?
MINISTER MORRISON: The assertion you made I do not agree with. The purpose of the measure is to set a very clear message about how we run policy in relation to youth access to benefit payments. I do not want to run a scheme which runs a shuttle bus from the school gate to the Centrelink front door. I don’t want that to be the message to job-ready young people. In New Zealand where they implemented a similar policy 40% of those who entered that four week waiting period before being able to access their dole equivalent didn’t go onto payments. Forty percent didn’t go onto the payments. Now I think that is a fairly compelling statistic about the virtues of these types of reforms. This is about getting people into jobs and not having job ready young people see welfare as a career choice. There is a plethora of exemptions that protect vulnerable young people who would not be subject to these measures. But for those who are job ready then this is a programme and is combined with the other measures that will encourage people into work. You rightly talk about the increased investment the government is making in youth unemployment programmes, or I should call them youth employment programmes. What we heard when we pursued the earlier measures is the six month period was too long. We have accepted that advice, we have listened to the Australian people on that issue but we also heard from them we needed to do more to invest in helping remove the barriers in getting young people into work. Some $300,000 and more has been invested in this budget to assist to remove the barriers to get young people into work. In my own portfolio that means more than $100 million on assisting young people who have mental health problems through a programme we are doing with Headspace. There is $19.4 million for trial programmes for young people with mental health issues to help get into jobs. Refugee and migrant youth programmes, which we have been working very closely with Senator Fierravanti-Wells on. This is about ensuring in targeted communities with very significant problems with getting young people into work and education – again, more than $20 million focused on doing that job. Then there are those with intractable issues when it comes to getting a job – longer-term unemployed. From concepts and initiatives developed by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, backing their work to ensure we are removing that disadvantage. So this is a government committed to removing disadvantages from young people to help them get into work, for those who need that assistance. But for those who are job ready, who don’t have those impediments the message is simple – you don’t go from the school gate to the Centrelink front door.