By Tanya Plibersek

22 February 2022


SUBJECTS: Visit to Mackay; Domestic and Family Violence; Labor’s plans to help women fleeing violence.

MEECHAM PHILPOTT, HOST: So let's go and do something a little bit different this morning. Although, it's something we're getting used to up here in the tropical North. It's kind of like they're all lining up at Canberra at the moment catching planes and coming out to see us up in the north. Today it's Tanya Plibersek, who of course, is the Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women with this morning at ABC Tropical North. Tanya, welcome. 
PHILPOTT: So what brings you up north? 
PLIBERSEK: Well, I wanted to come up and talk to Shane Hamilton our Labor candidate. He organised a women's forum yesterday, we had a really good turnout of local people coming and talking about women's issues, and I'm off to the women's services now to see what they do in practice. 
PHILPOTT: Because over the last couple of years we've had a lot on air about this because we do recognise that we do have a problem locally. And it's something that we have a problem within regions in a way I guess, and that is we only have X amount of places for a family that's making a run for it. Sometimes, it's not even for very long. It might be a motel for a couple of weeks and then it's couchsurfing and those sorts of things with children. But also the actual area, the actually accommodation that we have, quite often sharing with Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, because they're trying to get people away from a horrific situation. So that's the problem that we face in the regions, but is there something that's, I don't know that you're talking about in Canberra that we don't know about, that's the way to solve the problem?
PLIBERSEK: Well, there's two things that will make a really concrete difference. The first is, we're going to build thousands of new public housing homes. We're going to set aside thousands of those for women and children escaping domestic violence. We've also said we'll hire 500 extra community workers to work in refuges, to work with families that are escaping violence. But we know that regional communities suffer particular issues around domestic violence because where do you go? I mean, this is the question so many people ask, why didn't she leave a violent relationship, when the real question should be where would she go? And that's what we were talking to the women services about last night. That's what I'll be hearing about this morning. We need to answer that question. And I know Mackay, rent is really expensive here. There's not many rental properties. So, even if you have the money to leave a violent situation, where do you go? You want to keep your kids in the same school, you want to stay in the community that's familiar to you. Maybe you've got your parents, friends, family here. You don't want to be moving towns. Too often I’m hearing from women saying I couldn't leave, where would I take my kids, where would we live? And that really is something that we need to do. We need to address it by building more public housing, by making sure that we have money available. We've got 10 days paid domestic violence leave, for example, is another Labor policy. If you're in a job and you need to move the kids for safety, you need to get the locks changed on your home, you need to go to court, you need to give a police statement - unless you've got leave, unless you can talk to your employer about what's going on in your life, you might lose your job. And then how do you pay the rent? How do you keep your family safe in those circumstances?
PHILPOTT: Exactly. But I mean, you have to ask the question from a society point of view, how the hell did we get here? I mean, it's like the old saying, I only came down here to drain the swamp now I'm up to my butt in alligators. But it really is a situation where just in a place like a Mackay, I mean albeit the 14th largest city in Australia, you’re getting 600 presentations at a place like CASA here in Mackay per six months looking for a way out. That's just way too many. So obviously we've got to go back to the drawing board somewhere because something's gone horribly wrong. 
PLIBERSEK: I think a lot of people don't know that one in three Australian women will expect to experience domestic violence in her lifetime. One in five will experience sexual assault, on the figures that we've got. So we need to start much, much younger with boys and girls, teaching them about respectful relationships. And, in fact, even when kids are in childcare, you don't talk to them about really detailed specifics but talk to them about how you keep them safe - 
PHILPOTT: Being kind, respectful. 
PLIBERSEK: How to be a good friend. How do you take turns? How do you share? How do you not use your fists to solve problems? So we can be working much earlier with kids so that they grow up expecting to treat each other with respect.
PHILPOTT: As a granddad, it would seem to me just monitoring the kids and how they're going, the way they deal with stuff completely different to the way that I dealt with things as a child growing up. To the point where boys and girls, it's like there aren't boys and girls there are just people, it seems like they've got that under control so that next generation come through, and hopefully has got a better handle on the whole man versus woman thing.
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it's really important to say that Australian women don't want special treatment. They just want equality. They don't want to keep showing up in statistics of domestic homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault. But what we know about young kids is they are, in lots of ways, better at discussing their feelings and so on than we were when we were kids, right? But we also know that there are some really negative influences on them. So the average age of first viewing pornography in Australia today is about 11 years old. 
PHILPOTT: Terrifying.
PLIBERSEK: And these kids are watching really quite violent online pornography. There's no rules about what you can see on the internet and they're getting really mistaken ideas about what a normal, healthy sexual relationship is like because they are exposed to online pornography so early. So there's really good things that are happening in schools and families to raise our kids up strong, and then there's a bunch of negative influences that we have to counteract as well. 
PHILPOTT: I want to make a statement - this is all about the Shadow Minister for Women here. And that is, at the moment we're told we need more women in Parliament, we've seen more women ploughed into the coalmining game, but women are too smart to go to Parliament. No seriously, why would you put up with that?
PLIBERSEK: What are you saying about me? I've been there for years.
PHILPOTT: I know but you need a real thick skin to take on that gig.
PLIBERSEK: I thought you were going to say a real thick skull.
PHILPOTT: No, really why would you put yourself through it? Working 24 hours a day for good coin, when you could earn maybe half to two-thirds of that four-on-four-off. Why would you bother?
PLIBERSEK: Because you really get to change lives. I look back on some of the things I've had the opportunity to do and I'm so proud of that, like the kids dental program I introduced when I was the Health Minister. You know, there are poor kids who will have teeth growing up because we did that.
PHILPOTT: It’s a big thing. 
PLIBERSEK: When I had the housing portfolio, 80 new homelessness services and tens of thousands of affordable, social housing and rental properties. Such an honour. It's such a privilege to see a family that's been homeless move into a place with a secure roof over their heads. There's not many jobs that I can imagine doing, that I've got the skills to do, that would let me make a difference to people's lives like that. That's the privilege of it. 
PHILPOTT: Fair call. All right, today. We've only got you for the day, is it a flying visit? So you and Shane, where are you guys heading to?
PLIBERSEK: We're off to women's services this morning to talk to them about domestic violence, like we were talking about before, the need in the community. Women and kids sleeping in cars, it’s just not good enough, what are we going to do about it. 
PHILPOTT: Alright, wish you the best on that because it is a major problem where we live and hopefully we can fix it.
PLIBERSEK: Thanks for talking about it Meech. It's really important that people in positions like yours do.
PHILPOTT: Tanya, thank you so much. Welcome to Mackay, good on you Shane thanks for coming in. Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Minister for Education and Women on ABC Tropical North.