Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Plibersek misrepresents over domestic violence helpline

Tanya Plibersek has today completely misrepresented my testimony provided to the Senate Estimates Hearing this morning on the domestic violence Helpline.

Ms Plibersek has completely ignored the truth including the fact that:

  • I responded to the issue when the complaints were raised with me 12 months ago and the matter was fully investigated.
  • Lifeline Australia investigated the complaints and has assured the Government that no counsellor working on the campaign Helpline would have given anyone in genuine need of help inappropriate responses such as those alleged.
  • The Government is committed to delivering the highest quality service and therefore actively encourages people to notify the Department if they feel they have received inappropriate advice.
  • Lifeline counsellors receive extensive training and only fully trained counsellors will answer calls from victims of domestic violence.

I am disturbed that Ms Plibersek fails to acknowledge that some service organisations have been actively encouraging their staff to call the Helpline pretending to require counselling.

It is difficult to understand how people who work with women experiencing violence would knowingly tie up the Helpline with fraudulent calls and potentially deny access to someone in genuine need.

The Government contracted Lifeline following a tender process and has recently engaged an independent researcher to evaluate the performance of the Helpline. Results will be provided to the Government when the evaluation is complete.

I am disappointed that Ms Plibersek has chosen to use Lifeline, a well-respected and trusted provider of telephone counselling services, as a political pawn.